IET President moots open access for SMEs to IP created by UK universities

A top academic, innovator and serial entrepreneur today calls on the Government to give small and medium sized businesses open access to the intellectual property (IP) created in UK universities.

Professor Andy Hopper CBE has this week become the new President of Europe’s largest professional society for engineers and technicians, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

In this evening’s inaugural address, he says: “Tax payers are already funding the creation of innovative intellectual property in our universities, so it seems reasonable to make it more freely available to UK SMEs that are best positioned to add value and commercialise it.

“Universities should be encouraged and incentivised to kick start the development of new technologies and products by openly assigning the required IP to dynamic British businesses at minimal extra cost. In return, maybe the university could get a one or two per cent shareholding – more of a goodwill gesture than a conventional transaction.”

Professor Andy Hopper believes this will be a big boost for the engine room of the UK economy, small and medium sized enterprises.

He will also call on the Government to create a Chief Engineering and Technology Adviser so national infrastructure projects get the expertise they desperately need and to make sure the UK is able to harness advances in technology.

With a raft of massive engineering projects in the pipeline, such as smart grids, High Speed 2, faster broadband networks and new or expanded airports, Professor Hopper believes that the lack of engineers at senior levels in Government is “the elephant in the room.” He wants to see more engineering advisers embedded in government, following the recent example of the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Professor Hopper, who heads up the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, said: “In the UK, engineering is still undervalued despite our rich industrial heritage and track record in pioneering new technologies. This is reflected in the make-up of the Government and must change to help turn around the UK economy.

“The UK Government has a complete absence of engineers in the Cabinet and poor representation across Parliament and the Civil Service. With the success of so much future policy based around engineering and technology, I believe that it is time for the Government to draw on the knowledge and experience of the UK’s best engineering talent at the highest levels.

“I am calling on the Government to follow the example of the many British companies that have realised technology irrevocably underpins their competitiveness, efficiency and future success and have appointed CTOs to their boards. It is high time that we had a CTO for UK plc.”

Andy Hopper, the new President of the IET, is giving his inaugural address entitled “A Perspective on Innovation” in central London today at IET London: Savoy Place (Thursday 4 October).