Universities are increasingly called upon to conduct research that has demonstrable impact. Scholarly work investigating this topic has so far focused on the most visible forms of commercialisation, such as licensing, and spin-off companies. While these activities are clearly important, less attention has been paid to other types of engagement, including collaborative research, consulting and contract research, even though they are relatively more common than the high-profile activities. Furthermore, there is even less work on whether and how collaborative engagement between academics and industry functions as a seedbed for spin-offs and licences.

Research approach



With the support of EPSRC and European Commission, we have established a research project that will use Imperial College London as a site for exploring the above issues. At the core of the project is a database that pools existing College records on the patenting and licensing of inventions, creation of spin-off businesses, collaboration with industrial partners and consulting activity to generate a detailed picture of academic engagement at Imperial over the last 10 years.

If you are an Imperial staff member, and would like to know more about the research methodology and the opt-out procedure, please click here.




The project represents an opportunity to learn more about how universities contribute to wealth creation. Furthermore, the findings will enhance our understanding how academic engagement contributes to the advancement of science and other aspects of university life. The results will be valuable for the wider community of policy makers, university leaders and scholars studying universities and technology transfer.

Research team



  • Dr. Markus Perkmann
  • Dr. Riccardo Fini
  • Prof. Erkko Autio
  • Prof. Ammon Salter
  • Dr. Jan Ross
  • The team are based in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at the Business School. We have a vibrant programme to better understand the nature of academics’ collaboration with industry and other users. For more information about this work, click here.

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