FAQs

Discover how to maximise the benefits of your research to tackle today's biggest challenges

Find below an overview of the most frequently asked questions. If your question isn't listed here, feel free to get in touch.

Innovation - why should I participate?

Innovation is the process by which research is applied outside academia in ways which benefit society. In the context of commercialisation, innovation is the process by which research can be mobilised to be used at scale by a wide range of organisations, either on a for-profit or non-profit basis.

At LSE, we are committed to the betterment of society and seek to exploit all opportunities to enhance the impact of our research, including impact through the private sector. We also seek to help LSE academics and researchers ensure the sustainability of their research, including financial sustainability achieved through income generated from research commercialisation activities. These activities also provide opportunities for LSE academic and research staff to reap the financial rewards of their research. Engaging with a broader range of research users can also have other positive benefits for those conducting research.

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property (IP) is a creation of the mind, for example an invention, literary and artistic work, a design, or a symbol. It is “intellectual” because it is creative output and “property” because it is viewed as a tradable commodity. In the university context, IP can be viewed as the results and outcomes of research.

There are several types of IP legal rights that protect the creators and owners of IP. These are: patents, copyright, database right, design right, trade mark, and confidential information.

For more information on IP and the different types of IP rights, we recommend visiting the UK IP office website or get in touch with our LSE Innovation team.

What is licensing?

A licence is an agreement between an IP owner, for example LSE, and another party, called the ‘licensee’. The agreement allows an IP owner to transfer the rights to use the IP in question to the licensee for a specific purpose and duration in exchange for fees or royalties, without losing ownership of the IP.

For more information on licensing, we recommend visiting the UK IP office website.

What is a spin-out company?

A spinout or spin-off is a new company formed to commercially exploit intellectual property (IP) generated by university researchers that has valuable commercial value. A spinout will have its own management and operations team and will most likely be owned at launch by the university, the inventors of the intellectual property, and some third-parties (for example, investors). Spinouts are usually formed when there are many commercial applications for the research or IP in question and/or there is no existing business or industry to approach for licensing.

Social enterprise - how does it work at LSE?

A social enterprise is a business that applies commercial strategies to maximise improvements in social and/or environmental well-being.

A social enterprise is not a charity and is not necessarily a non-profit; instead, a social enterprise must generate most of its income through trade (for example, selling goods or services) and reinvest profits into its social and/or environmental cause as well as into furthering the company and/or its goods and services. A social enterprise must be autonomous, transparent, and cannot rely on volunteering, grants or donations to be sustainable in the long-term, although these forms of funding may be used to launch the company.

For more information on social enterprises, we recommend visiting the Social Enterprise UK website.

What is an IP policy?

A university’s intellectual property (IP) policy is a document that clearly outlines all rules, regulations, processes, and procedures at the institution relating to IP. The role of this document is to inform employees, students, and other relevant parties about the ownership of IP created at the institution, how this IP is managed and exploited, and the incentives in place to encourage participation in knowledge exchange and commercialisation.

For more information on IP policies, we recommend reading the UK IP office’s guide on intellectual asset management.

What is due diligence?

Due diligence can take different forms depending on its purpose, but in the context of innovation and enterprise it refers to the process of understanding and assessing the legal risks associated with an innovation project and the researcher’s or LSE’s freedom to operate, in other words what we can do with the research or data, in particular how a project can use third-party intellectual property (IP) or data. For example, the due diligence process can include reviewing whether data or materials collected from third-party websites are used correctly with the appropriate permissions or licenses.

Note that restrictions often apply on the use of IP or data for commercial purposes which do not apply to use for research purposes. What can be used for the purposes of publishing research in a journal may well be very different from what data or IP can be used if you want to develop that research into a commercial project.  

The LSE Innovation team can advise you on the due diligence process required for your work. 

How do I make my research available on an open source or not-for-profit basis?

LSE Innovation can help protect your research if you want to publish it on an open source basis (e.g. other than in academic journals). For example, the team can help to ensure your work is properly attributed by others and/or prevent others from using your research for their own commercial purposes or other purposes for which it was not designed.

How can I increase the impact of my research project?

LSE Innovation can advise you on different possibilities for you to broaden the potential impact of your work. We can also put you in touch with colleagues within LSE Research and Innovation or the LSE Communications Division who can help you.

How are financial returns from LSE Innovation activities distributed?

The School takes a collaborative approach to the commercialisation of LSE IP and ensures that, where possible, LSE and the creators of a works each receive a fair share of the financial returns from the commercialisation of that work.

If LSE receives revenues from the licensing or assignment of IP in any work created by LSE members of staff, LSE students and/or LSE visitors that they have assigned to LSE, the net revenues (after the deduction of direct costs) will normally be shared between the creators of the work, their department, faculty or institute, and LSE in accordance with the table below. Prior to any commercialisation activities taking place, all LSE members of staff, students and/or visitors who created the work will be responsible for deciding amongst themselves how their proportion of revenues is split between them.

If a spin-out company is formed to commercialise LSE IP, shares in that spin-out company are typically allocated between LSE and the creators of the IP (e.g. LSE members of staff, LSE students and/or LSE visitors) based on the table below, assuming there are no other investors. However, equity allocations for each LSE spin-out company will be negotiated on a case by case basis, based on the potential value of the business and the respective contributions, commitments and involvement of each creator. 

For more information on the exact distribution, please contact the LSE Innovation team.

Who at LSE oversees all innovation activities?

LSE’s innovation activities operate under the direction of the Strategic Director of Innovation, Professor Julia Black. These activities are guided internally by the Innovation Network and by the Knowledge Exchange and Impact Strategy Group (KEISG), which is chaired by the Pro Director for Research, Professor Simon Hix.

What should I do to get started?

To get started on an innovation and enterprise opportunity, contact the LSE Innovation team who will be pleased to talk through your idea with you.