The company was established in 1987 as Oxford University Research and Development Ltd and was renamed Isis Innovation a year later. Isis Innovation and its sub-divisions manage the University's intellectual property portfolio, working with University academics and researchers who wish to commercialise their work by identifying, protecting and marketing technologies through patenting and licensing, spin-out company formation, consulting and material sales.
Isis provides researchers with commercial advice, funds patent applications and legal costs, negotiates third-party licences and spin-out company agreements, and identifies and manages consultancy opportunities for University of Oxford academics. Isis works on projects from all of the University's research divisions: medical sciences, mathematical, physical & life sciences, humanities and social sciences.
Patents, licensing, and spin-outs
Isis files, on average, one patent application each week, manages over 360 patent application families and has concluded over 450 licence agreements which has made Isis Innovation "one of the country's most prolific technology transfer offices". According to 2012 figures from WIPO, Isis Innovation is the 4th largest filer of PCT patent applications in the UK and the highest European university applicant. Isis licenses technologies to companies who invest in developing and selling the products in a timely and ethical manner. Licensees are sought from all technology and business sectors on an international basis.
Isis works with University researchers to develop new business opportunities, identifying and sourcing investment, management and professional services. Since 1988 Isis has assisted in the formation of more than 70 University spin-out companies, generating over £2 billion in unquoted and quoted market valuations for the University of Oxford.
Notable spin-outs include:
- NaturalMotion – Film and computer games animation developer, known for their Euphoria software used in Rockstar North's GTA IV.
- Intelligent Sustainable Energy – Company creating advanced analysis software for domestic smart meters
- Oxford GlycoSciences – Biotechnology firm founded by Professor Raymond Dwek.
- Oxford-Emergent Tuberculosis Consortium – A joint venture between the University of Oxford and Emergent BioSolutions formed to develop a new tuberculosis vaccine with the aid of AERAS.
- Oxitec - A British biotechnology company which develops genetically modified insects to assist in insect control.
Isis Innovation's divisions
Isis Innovation is split into three divisions, dedicated to different areas of knowledge transfer. Alongside the central Technology Transfer group that deals exclusively with disclosures and patent applications from University of Oxford researchers, Isis manages:
Oxford University Consulting (OUC); which arranges consultancy services providing third-party clients access to expertise from the University’s academics to enhance innovative capability and to manage the contractual and administrative aspects of consultancy, minimising the administrative burden while protecting personal interests of the academic and those of the University. Areas of expertise include (but are not limited to) problem solving, data analysis, expert evaluation, due diligence, management and business development. OUC also helps Oxford University departments in hiring out specialist services and facilities to private companies by managing the contractual and financial aspects on behalf of the departments. OUC’s activities meet the ISO 9001 quality assurance standard.
Isis Enterprise; established as a separate business division in 2004, Isis Enterprise offers consulting expertise, training and advice in technology transfer based upon Isis Innovation’s success as the University of Oxford’s technology transfer company. Isis Enterprise works with other universities, research organisations and governments around the world to develop their technology transfer activities, as well as helping private businesses improve research & development processes and technology scouting. In 2009 Isis Enterprise set up an office in Hong Kong to facilitate the growth of academic and governmental technology transfer activity in the Asia Pacific region.
The Oxford Innovation Society (OIS), founded in 1990, is a forum for Open Innovation, bringing together researchers and inventors, Oxford spin-outs, technology transfer professionals, local companies, venture capital groups and some of the world's most innovative multinationals. The society allows companies to have a “window” on Oxford science and fosters links between business and the academic community. Members receive an advance notification of all patent applications marketed by Isis, invitations to networking opportunities at formal OIS dinners, customised research presentations and bespoke seminars for technology roadmapping and strategic planning.
The Isis Angels Network (IAN) introduces private investors and seed/venture capitalists interested in investing in spin-out companies from the University of Oxford to investment opportunities. IAN is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, established by Isis in 1999.
Isis Innovation also administers the Oxford University Challenge Seed Fund (UCSF), which was launched in 1999 with investment from the UK Treasury, Wellcome Trust and Gatsby Foundation. The £4 million Oxford UCSF has invested in over 100 projects, ranging in size from £1,700 to £250,000. The overall objective of the UCSF scheme is to enable universities to access seed funds in order to assist the successful transformation of good research into good business.
In 2010, Isis Innovation – in conjunction with the University’s ‘Oxford Thinking’ campaign – created the Oxford Invention Fund (OIF). The open fund allows anyone to donate money which goes towards helping create prototypes or proof-of-concept models from ideas and technologies developed at Oxford to improve the transfer into a commercial setting.
Isis manages the licensing of copyrighted Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs) questionnaires via its Isis Outcomes brand. These questionnaires, developed within the University, are used for academic and commercial clinical studies into a variety of illnesses, including Parkinson’s Disease and Endometriosis. The negotiation of sales agreements for biological and physical science materials such as cell lines and antibodies are also handled by Isis Innovation.
Since 2010, Isis Innovation has run the Isis Startup Incubator (ISI), designed to support very early-stage software ventures from students, staff and alumni of the University of Oxford; the Incubator offers physical space and IT facilities as well as commercial mentoring, funding support and business networking facilitation.
Isis has strong links with all the parts of the University involved in technology commercialisation and enterprise. These include:
- Research Services
- Begbroke Science Park
- Oxford Science Enterprise Centre
- Entrepreneurship Said, at the Saïd Business School.
Oxford Spin-out Equity Management (OSEM) was created in 2008 and works closely with Isis Innovation and the University of Oxford’s Finance Division to manage the University’s shareholdings in its spin-out companies and optimising returns on University investments.
- R. Lambert, Lambert Review of Business-University Collaboration, 2003, page 60, HM Treasury, ISBN 0-947819-76-2.
- Top applicants, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
- Top applicants, University Sector, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
- Knowledge transfer, University of Oxford, UK.
- From the lab to the marketplace, Financial Times.
- New TB Vaccine Candidate Enters Phase IIb Proof-of-Concept Trial in South Africa, Aeras.
- How they tried to tarnish Barack Obama, The Times.
- Proteomics Charging System – Dunn School of Pathology
- Oxford Invention Fund – University of Oxford
- Contacts, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, UK.