Does Oxford University have any claim to MBA startup ideas?

18 Oct

Copyright PharmaVentures Ltd 2010

Another question that was asked by the incoming MBA class to the entrepreneurship panel I was sitting on the other day.

“Does Oxford University have any claim to startups that originate from the MBA class?”

The short answer is “no”.

Normally, when some Intellectual Property (IP) is developed as a part of research at a university, the university has a significant claim to the IP – afterall it has been developed whilst working there. The split can be very fair though – the scientist who originated the IP can get 1/3 to 1/2 share of IP rights with the university.

This can be very lucrative for the university and the scientists involved if the IP ends up becoming part of a successful company or product. For example Remicade, an arthritis antibody treatment, was developed at New York University School of Medicine. In 2007, Royalty Pharma paid $650 Million to buy the royalty stream from NYU. Can you imagine your university suddenly getting a $650 Million cash injection? Nice!

Of course Oxford University tries to commercialise as much technology as possible, mostly through its technology transfer arm, Isis Innovation.

I’m told that one of the biggest royalty streams to Oxford University is thanks to Ed Southern’s “Southern Blot“, a molecular biology technique. However, I’m not actually sure if the patents are still valid.

The Said Business School has an arrangement with the University that any business ideas developed by MBA students are exempt from any claim by the University. Afterall, what right-minded entrepreneur would come to a business school that would lay claim to his ideas just because he was there for a year learning about Porter’s Five Forces and the Laffer Curve?

The exception would be if your business was based on IP developed elsewhere in the University. We do some projects with Isis Innovation so that is quite possible. One of the recent Oxford MBA startups, Lab Minds, is based on technology developed by two people from one of the science departments, so I presume the University has some licensing arrangement there.

So don’t worry about coming here with your amazing startup idea. I think the University is hoping that you’ll make it big and give some money back of your own free accord.

Next post, also a question at the same panel, – should you keep your startup idea secret?

2 Responses to “Does Oxford University have any claim to MBA startup ideas?”

  1. Nigel Tunnacliffe (@_nigel) October 18, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    I am going to jump the gun and declare that I think the answer to next weeks question is basically no. Unless you are 100% sure of what you are doing, and other people finding out about it would be very detrimental to its success, the more feedback and connections that can be made around the idea the better. Through talking to everyone I know about my startup, mDiagnostica, I have gotten great ideas, and connections to customers, investors, advisors, and other valuable contacts.

    • Steven October 19, 2011 at 8:04 am #

      Yup, pretty much… but don’t steal my blog post thunder! 😉

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