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It's all about the 'spin' (outs)

Posted on 10 July 2024

Over the past few weeks, we have been subjected to 'spin' from all political parties, but now in the post-election honeymoon, we wait to see what the new Government means for a different kind of 'spin' - the spin-outs from the UK's universities and research institutions. 

Shadow Vice Chancellor Rachel Reeves supported the findings of the Independent Review of university spin-outs, led by Professor Irene Tracey and Dr. Andrew Williamson, commissioned by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology. The Labour Party's commitment to making Britain the best place to start and grow a business aligns with the Review's recommendations, underscoring the need for strategic partnerships and improved financial access for start-ups and spin-outs. Mishcon de Reya partner, Nicola McConville, fed into the Review and you can see Mishcon de Reya's initial response to the Review here.  

There were various commitments outlined in the Labour Party's 2024 manifesto to support the outcome of the Review both directly and indirectly, including: 

  1. Innovation Partnerships: the Labour Party seeks to foster stronger partnerships between universities, private sector companies and the Government. They emphasise the importance of collaboration to drive innovation and have pledged to remove bureaucratic barriers that hinder progress. As well as impacting spin-outs this could impact the many licensing deals and sponsored research agreements in the knowledge exchange sector. Wider industry collaboration could also open the door not only to the much-needed diversification of capital in the research sector but also in the delivery of the key infrastructure and assets needed to support such research. We have seen the investment from private equity real estate funds such as Mishcon de Reya client, Brookfield, in joint ventures, working alongside the Government, to develop the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxford and we wait to see whether more opportunities akin to this now present themselves. 
  2. Support for life sciences: the Labour Party has committed to a £10 billion investment in the UK life sciences sector, aimed at boosting research and development in new medicines and vaccines. This is part of a broader strategy to make the UK a top destination for pharmaceutical and life sciences investments. We wait to see the nature of this investment but we would expect to see the role of universities key to this, together with a strategy for keeping associated spin-out companies, the talent within them and associated economic benefit in the UK, as well as attracting global players here to foster and grow the sector. 
  3. Industrial strategy: the Labour Party's modern industrial strategy includes an AI sector plan, a new national data library to support research and 10-year budgets for key innovation institutions. Again, the detail of this is still awaited, but we anticipate many universities to be included in the concept of key 'innovation institutions'. In comparison to their US counterparts, UK universities are heavily reliant on public sector funding and longer-term certainty of funding will enable them to do what they do best – developing world class innovation across all sectors. 

As we wait to see how these pledges will be delivered and, as the new Government starts to take shape, we see Sir Patrick Vallance, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and a familiar face during the pandemic, has been appointed as the Minister of State for Science. This would appear to be a key strategic move, given his extensive background in both Government and industry and would appear to underscore the Labour Party's commitment to prioritising science and innovation. 

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