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Unlocking IP for business

13 November, 2011

In a first for Australia, the University of New South Wales will offer the majority of its intellectual property to companies for free, in a radical step to turn more university research into real-world applications.

The pioneer of Easy Access, Dr Kevin Cullen, will implement this strategy at UNSW as the new head of NewSouth Innovations, the university’s commercialisation company. Dr Cullen initiated the approach while the Director of Research and Enterprise at the University of Glasgow.

UNSW will join a handful of universities worldwide including the University of Glasgow, Kings College London and the University of Copenhagen that are using the Easy Access approach to spark greater collaboration between universities and industry.

Under the new approach of Easy Access IP, a selection of UNSW’s intellectual property will now be offered to the private sector to develop for free, with simplified, one-page agreements replacing complicated licensing negotiations.

UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Les Field said the new approach would put more university generated research into real world use.

"The focus of Easy Access IP is to put more university IP into the hands of the private sector and to allow industry to build on our research and take it to market," Professor Field said.

"This is quite a radical departure from the way that UNSW and most universities have been doing business."

NSi Chief Executive Dr Kevin Cullen said at present the licensing of university IP to companies was viewed as: "difficult, painful and cumbersome".

"We want to change this. We want to remove the barriers and the obstacles so that companies will choose UNSW as a partner to work with, and so we can build positive partnerships between researchers and industry based on the Easy Access IP approach," he said.

Dr Cullen said that for the small proportion of IP where UNSW can identify significant commercial value, such IP would be exploited with commercial partners. But for other developments, the Easy Access approach will be used.

"In these cases, the IP will be offered to entrepreneurs and industry for free," Dr Cullen said. "In order for the university to decide on the most appropriate licensee, those interested need to explain how they will use the IP to benefit the economy or society."

IP offered under the Easy Access portfolio will have an additional three conditions: companies must acknowledge UNSW’s contribution and report on the progress; companies agree that if they have not exploited the IP within three years, it will be transferred back to UNSW; and there will be no limitations on UNSW’s use of the IP for the university’s own research.

Academics will be able to choose to "opt-in" and have their IP included in the Easy Access approach. Businesses will then be able to view the Easy Access offerings via technology web portals, and have the ability to quickly get in touch with NewSouth Innovations to gain access to the technology.

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