Innovator Insights blog – Commercialisation as a route to clinical impact
In collaboration with Translation Manchester, Manchester BRC’s Innovator Training Scheme (ITS) aims to equip and inspire researchers to explore and develop impactful research alongside industry and commercial partners.
Continuing our Innovator Insights blog series, some of our speakers from our ‘commercialisation as a route to clinical impact’ session discuss different commercial routes for researchers, and their top tips for doing this in practice. You can also watch the session back in full on the Manchester BRC YouTube channel.
Dr Ruth Hale, Innovation and IP Management Service Lead, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT)
As clinical researchers, we want to ensure our research make a lasting impact for our patients. Often, the best route to clinical adoption is to ensure our research reaches a commercial market. Bringing a new product/technology or service to market may seem like a daunting task, but there are a variety of ways this can be done – and not all involve becoming the CEO of a company. And across GM there is a wealth of support for researchers hoping to make a commercial splash.
Commercialisation of research can lead to many benefits, including improving patient outcomes and/or safety, increasing efficiency of NHS services, and saving the NHS money. Researchers themselves can also benefit personally from commercialisation in terms of gaining new skills, knowledge and contacts. as well as identifying new opportunities to promote their work and collaborate with others.
Things to think about on the path to commercialisation
The first issue to consider is whether there is a need for a product/service, as without a need, no-one will buy it. For example, does it solve a common problem? How big is the problem, what impact does it have and how many people/organisations are affected? Are there any existing solutions and if so, is your one better?
The next step is to be clear on who owns the Intellectual Property (IP) associated with the product/service and how it could be protected to deter others from using/copying it. Is it patentable? Would a trademark be useful? It’s also important to be sure that you don’t need to use anyone else’s IP to commercialise your product/service, so get advice on this from your local technology transfer office/IP adviser (see details at the end).
Before commercialisation, your product/service is likely to require some more development to make it market ready. You might need to work with a product design company to ensure your product can be manufactured, and/or you may need prototypes to test to see if they work. Proof of concept/development funding (e.g. NIHR i4i) will probably need to be found to cover this.
The value proposition for the product/service also requires consideration, to demonstrate why the NHS should pay for it. This might require some evaluation (e.g. health economic assessment comparing current practice with use of the new product/service). In addition, be aware of any relevant regulations (e.g. CE mark relating to the Medical Devices Directive) that the product/service will need to comply with and what evidence may be required to show it works as intended. Consider how any other hurdles for adoption will be addressed.
What are the main routes to commercialisation?
- Licensing is where your organisation (trust/university) grants rights to a company to use the IP. The company is responsible for manufacture and marketing of the product, and your organisation receives licence fees and/or royalties on sales.
- A spin-out company is where a new company is established by your organisation to manage the IP and to make and sell the product/service. In this case, ownership of the IP and know-how in the innovation is usually transferred to the spin-out company.
- Direct sale is where the product/service is sold straight to the consumer by your organisation, providing admin and resources to manage sales.
The route taken can depend on how developed your product/service is, whether it fits with an existing company’s business, and how involved you and your organisation wish to be in the commercialisation process.
How to proceed and who can help?
Working with your tech transfer team/IP adviser can allow you to get bespoke advice on the best course of action for your product/service. They can be involved in all stages of the commercialisation pathway from initial assessment, through to development of the product/service and the final commercialisation route. They can put you in touch with specialist advisers (e.g. patent agents, regulatory experts), help you to identify and liaise with industry, and advise on and negotiate any agreements needed.
Consider if any of your research could be commercialised for clinical impact
Many researchers take the route to clinical impact through commercialisation by working with industry partners. They find this a rewarding experience that can be a spring-board for their career and research driving impact for their patients.
Professor Aline Miller, Professor of Biomolecular Engineering, The University of Manchester and Chief Executive of Manchester BioGel
Starting a commercial venture can be terrifying and daunting, but it is also so rewarding it many different and unexpected ways. You will expand your network, diversify your technical and transferable skills and also have some fun along the way!
During my entrepreneurial journey I have made plenty mistakes, but it’s how you bounce back from them that is key. I always keep in mind my ‘4Ps’ mantra:
- Patience – there is no overnight success.
- Persistence – make mistakes and learn.
- Passion – have a drive to succeed.
- Perspective – remember what’s important to you.
This in addition to not being swayed by others but creating my own definition of success!
Dr John McDermott, Honorary Clinical Lecturer, Saint Mary’s Hospital, MFT
The Pharmacogenetics To Avoid Loss of Hearing (PALOH) project was only possible because we established a successful relationship with an industry partner at an early stage. Having clinical and public stakeholder input into early phase prototype design is critical when developing a technology for implementation in healthcare.
Who to contact for support (local Technology Transfer Offices)
If you are employed by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust you can contact the Innovation Team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or if you are employed by The University of Manchester contact University of Manchester Innovation Factory on: