New data about academic technology transfer to startups

Nathan Benaich is very unhappy with technology transfer in the UK and he is probably right to be. For many years I had noticed that British academic institutions often took more than a 25% ownership in a startup in exchange for a license of intellectual property, whereas the standard figure in the USA and continental Europe is more in the 5-10% range. He had published a very interesting article in May 2021, Rewriting the European spinout playbook where he was complaining about a lack of transparency and very frustrating processes.

He is now working on a new set of data provided by founders that he makes freely available on spinout.fyi. He is asking for help and any interested founder should provide a little if she can. I downloaded his data and provide here my own analysis although Nathan has his own here. You should read it. Here is a first set of tables:

If you do not like tables and even if you do, here are more figures:

And because I had done a similar research some years ago, posted here as How much Equity Universities take in Start-ups from IP Licensing?, I did the exercise of combining his and my data. This is a set of 190+ companies! You will see the equity ownership per domain and per region.

So what are the lessons? The UK is a clear outlier, but what is more striking is the volatility in the numbers. And why is that? Some professional claim each startup is different. I disagree. Strongly! The lack of transparency in the policies is the reason of the volatility. Founders seldom know how they will be treated. This is why I was so happy with EPFL publishing its policy. See my recent post Technology Transfer according to EPFL and Rules for Startups.

I really hope that Nathan Benaich’s effort will help in bringing a much needed transparency in these numbers!

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