Welcome to our first subscription magazine from Global University Venturing, following positive feedback from the industry during our beta phase over the past few months.
This issue contains our inaugural survey of the top 150 universities around the world and their practices round commercialising and taking equity stakes in the technologies and start-ups of their students and faculties (see feature) .
There are plenty of success stories around the world, with Belgium-based KU Leuven this month spinning out its 100th start-up more than 40 years after the launch of its technology transfer unit, Leuven Research & Development.
Most attention has concentrated on the US universities, which have dominated the league tables for their research and teaching quality. Stanford’s and MIT’s spin-outs and intellectual property have contributed billions to their local ecosystems and the world.
The US has seen a large number of student and university- run venture funds being set up, as well as greater attention from corporate-backed and independent venture capital firms (VCs), over the past few years. But the 20th century’s home of free enterprise and capitalism has in this area of university venturing been trailing China, according to our survey.
In part, Stanford and others have not needed specialist university venturing funds or to take stakes, instead relying on VCs and philanthropy both to commercialise the best ideas and technologies and to reap some of the rewards for the institution. Stanford’s avoidance of direct equity stakes in the past has also come from legal concerns about the potential impact of lawsuits against its large endowment, which has stakes in many of the best entrepreneurs. But while this collaborative model has worked in helping spawn Silicon Valley around Stanford, and Route 128 passing MIT, Harvard and others in the Boston region on the US east coast, the market has been evolving.
It is perhaps no surprise that Harvard has been among those to have set up a student venture fund, following the departure of social network Facebook from its campus to California, given Harvard’s endowment had also apparently passed up the chance to reinvest in VC Accel Partners, which owned a large chunk of the company at its flotation last year.
Globalisation is forcing greater competition as governments around the world look at US successes in building an innovation ecosystem round public money, private contracts and business and leading research and commercialisation efforts, including impressive efforts in Saudi Arabia (see page 20) .
There have also been plenty of attention and, appropriately enough, innovative ideas on how to fit a research institute or university’s culture and focus with the needs of the organisation itself, society and those who pass through or work there.
The Global University Venturing survey, while incomplete in part because so many of the top 150 institutions are so poor at communicating in this area, looks at the wide spectrum of options and approaches being taken. But these official attempts by universities captures only an estimated fraction of the entrepreneurial activity under way at most universities among students and faculty. Beyond the increased interest and attendance at entrepreneurial courses or accelerators is the recognition by insiders that probably a majority of start-ups avoid their alma mater’s technology transfer office for fear of being slowed down or giving up too much equity.
And it is this tightrope of helping while not asking for too much in return – and how they are measured for success – that cuts at the heart of the university venturing challenge almost all institutions are struggling to resolve.
Global University Venturing will be a forum for sharing best practices and discussions on this topic. Next month, we will look at part of this measurement of success – what investments are being made in their spin-out companies as we aggregate the data from the first six months of the year and the nearly 3,000 articles on our website. To report a deal in this period or share your news, contact me and our news editor, Gregg Bayes-Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org )