Expect more spinouts from UCC, more investment in innovative new start-ups, and more long-term partnerships between UCC researchers and industry — with the arrival of Dr Rich Ferrie as the new director of UCC Innovation.
Dr Ferrie brings significant prior experience from the University of Manchester, where he was director of operations and head of its technology transfer office UMIP for the last seven years.
Manchester currently ranks 34th in the world and eighth in Europe in the Shanghai ARWU table, and in 2018 jumped nine places to No7 in the Europe’s Most Innovative Universities Top 100, the list of Europe’s most innovative Universities.
First up for UCC will be the imminent rebranding of its Office of Technology Transfer to the more transparent and industry-friendly handle of UCC Innovation.
Within 12 to 18 months, Dr Ferrie hopes UCC will also be able to announce a new investment fund to help accelerate selected start-ups; University of Manchester has such a fund, supported by the college itself, the European Investment Bank (EIM) and UK and international venture capital investors.
“It is important that the university should open up such a fund,” said Dr Ferrie.
“The idea would be to start with a modest fund in 12 to 18 months from now, which would form part of the support mechanism to get entrepreneurs off the launch pad, and to show investors what the university is doing.
“In Manchester, we managed to put in place an investment fund which was underpinned by the EIM and by the university’s own capital. That was an effective way to attract investors.
"We created a lot of successful startups before we had the confidence boost of getting the EIM’s support.
“The path for UCC will be similar, but first we’ll start with a modest fund. More immediately, we’re currently rebranding the Office of Technology Transfer to UCC Innovation.
"We’re establishing a new centre that will bring [incubation hub] GatewayUCC and the Ignite and Sprint accelerators all under the one innovation umbrella.
“The title UCC Innovation points to the breadth of activity going on in UCC. That’s the message we want to tell the world.
"We’ll launch a new intellectual property (IP) policy on campus in October. That will support academics and students who want to do things with their IP.”
UCC Innovation will seek to bring spinouts to the next level.
Dr Ferrie points out that UCC is already a top performing college in the AKTS report produced annually by Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI).
Each year, UCC graduates forms nine or 10 startups, with academic researchers typically creating four or five spinouts annually.
The creation of 14 or 15 campus companies annually is impressive.
Even more impressive have been the paths taken by UCC spinouts like Firecomms, Sensl, Cytrea, Biosensia, Glantreo, Luxcel and countless others.
Before joining UCC, Dr Ferrie was already an invited member of KTI’s international panel, overseeing its Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative (TTSI) for six years, during which time the country’s growth and reputation in the international technology transfer community has been markedly enhanced.
He is also a committee member of PraxisAuril, the Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation (KEC) training and advocacy organisation, where he directs its course on spinout company creation.
Since joining UCC, Dr Ferrie now oversees GatewayUCC which has 55 spinout and start-up companies which now employ 330 full-time jobs attracting private and public investment packages of over €38 million, IGNITE (start ups), we have worked with almost 100 start-ups and over 120 founders who have launched companies such as AnaBio,Technologies, ApisProtect, Eurocomply, LegitFit, OnTheQt, PunditArena, Supply.ie, Talivest, TrustAp and Vconnecta.
Dr Ferrie also manages UCC Consulting and Incubation. UCC is also joining IN-PART a “proactive matchmaking platform for university-industry collaboration”.
IN-PART enables businesses to find and connect with the latest advances in science and technology developed by academics who are actively looking for strategic partners in industry.
IN-PART’s industry network includes R&D teams in over 5,500 companies, including Roche, Johnson & Johnson, Samsung, IBM, Google X, and multiple users from the top 25 global R&D-spending firms in 2018.
The platform showcases technologies and research breakthroughs from over 220 universities and research institutes from six continents.
Along with knowledge transfer and supporting industry, UCC Innovation will also seek to legitimise UCC’s reputation as a consultancy.
“This is an area of strength for UCC,” said Dr Ferrie. “There is great depth of research expertise here. UCC also has APC Microbiome, Tyndal, the Marei Centre and all those other SFI-funded activities contributing to innovation on the campus.
“Before I decided to move here from Manchester, I was also impressed by the interactions between UCC and industry. There are companies who have around 30 licences directly with industrial partners.
"A lot of that activity is being driven by students. UCC, through launch pads like Ignite and Blackstone, is generating a lot of entrepreneurial students.
“It is great to see students here who are willing to back themselves and take control of their own destiny. Gone are the days of students just wanting a safe job in the bank.
"It is our role to support them and, ultimately, to help them create jobs, both for themselves and for others in the local community.”
Both IGNITE and GatewayUCC are now open for expressions of interest for individuals or teams interested in starting a business in 2020.
Participants will be following in some very successful footprints.