University IP should be licensed to small UK firms, says IET president

SMEs should have greater access to IP created in Britain’s universities and more engineers need to be embedded in government as the nation progresses with large infrastructure projects.

This, says outgoing IET president Prof Andy Hopper CBE, would give SMEs the opportunity to add value and commercialise IP, whilst government would have access to the expertise it needs to successfully implement future policy based around engineering and technology.

In a statement, Prof Hopper said, ‘Tax payers are already funding the creation of innovative intellectual property in our universities, so it seems reasonable that more of this is made available to UK SMEs.’

‘Universities should be encouraged and incentivised more to kick start the development of new technologies and products by openly assigning the required IP to dynamic British businesses at minimal extra cost.

‘In return, maybe the university could get a one or two per cent shareholding – more of a goodwill gesture than a conventional transaction. This is all perfectly possible and is happening in a number of UK universities already.’

Prof Hopper wants also to see more engineering advisers embedded in government given the number of projects – such as Smart Grids, HS2, faster broadband networks and new or expanded airports – that are being addressed.

Prof Hopper, who heads the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory, said, ‘In the UK, engineering is still undervalued despite our rich industrial heritage and track record in pioneering new technologies. This is reflected in the make-up of the government and must change to help turn around the UK economy.

‘With the success of so much future policy based around engineering and technology, I believe that it is time for the government to draw more on the knowledge and experience of the UK’s best engineering talent at the highest levels.’