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Transforming UK translation conference



The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Image credit: Ales-A

Read the conference report (PDF).

Building on previous work of the Royal Society, this conference will focus on current challenges surrounding translation of research into successful business outcomes and how we can overcome them.

The meeting will consist of a mixture of talks and round table discussions, and bring together key stakeholders across the innovation continuum to discuss some of the key challenges, best practice and ways we can foster stronger industry-academia relationships.

Details about the speakers and discussions will be available closer to the event. 

Attending this event

  • Please note this conference is free (lunch and refreshments included) but by invitation only. You will require an invitation in order to register. To request an invitation or for more information, please contact the Industry team
  • Travel and accessibility information

Schedule of talks

31 October


Registration and refreshments


Opening remarks

2 talks Show detail Hide detail


Dame Sue Ion FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Society Science, Industry and Translation Committee

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Dr Rupert Lewis, Director, Government Office for Science

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Multiple routes to impact: plenary session

3 talks Show detail Hide detail

09:45-10:00 Impact in an age of disruption

Dr Stephen Cook, Chief Commercial Officer (Technology), BP plc


Many industry sectors are facing unprecedented disruption as the pace of innovation increases, digitisation creates new opportunities and business models, environmental concerns bite, new economies emerge, demographics shift, bioscience creates new possibilities and geopolitics becomes increasingly volatile. The need to translate invention into value – i.e. innovation – becomes an existential imperative for many companies. Many of the most valuable innovations occur at the boundaries between traditional disciplines. New ways of working in the start-up ecosystem fuelled by venture capital allows ideas to be demonstrated at pace. These factors mean that companies must be connected to research and experimentation at many levels in an ecosystem approach and must expect to collaborate to succeed in shared ownership models. As industry learns the business building and scale-up lessons from the start-up community this in turns creates new possibilities for partnerships to allow more frictionless translation and business and societal impact from research.

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10:00-10:15 An SME perspective on research translation

Peter Brewin, Founder, Concrete Canvas Ltd


1) How could universities support recent graduates and create more successful technology spin out companies?

2) Does a quasi-venture capital model for university spin out companies provide the best outcomes for the universities, the founders and UK PLC?

3)How can the barriers to SME engagement with universities be minimised? 

Having founded and spun out two companies from a master’s degree and spent the last 14 years developing, commercialising and licensing technologies within a technology SME, I will provide an SME’s perspective on the above questions with some practical solutions.


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10:15-10:30 Transforming UK translation: a university perspective

Dr Celia Caulcott, Vice-Provost (Enterprise), UCL


Governments and global society at large expect universities to engage with a variety of outside partners in order to translate their research, knowledge and understanding into productive use within those societies and economies. It is well-recognised that the impact that universities can have through such partnerships, and other knowledge exchange activities, is both wide-ranging and profound.

To develop productive relationships that support innovation requires a mixture of bottom-up and top-down approaches. The former approach recognises that most partnerships, technology and ideas development, are driven by the individual researchers and their collaborations with external organisations. The latter approach enables integrated, interdisciplinary and cross-institutional outcomes. Innovative partnerships can be forged with companies, hospitals, governments, and a wide variety of organisations, large and small, private and public: in every case the relationship should be one of equivalence, recognising mutual benefit and shared aspiration.


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Industry-academia engagement

3 talks Show detail Hide detail


Dr David Bembo, Director of Research & Innovation Services, Cardiff University

10:35-10:50 The interpretive labour involved in translation

Professor Matt Reed, Strategy Director, Materials Innovation Factory, University of Liverpool


The following adage is attributed to George Bernard Shaw. “If you and I have an apple each and we exchange them, then we will still have one apple each.  But if you and I both have ideas and we exchange them, then each of us will have two ideas.” If the ideas are non-trivial, then idea-exchange must always involve translation. The interpretive labour involved in translation is creative and costly. It follows that some circumstances lead to better translations than others. 

In this talk, I will give examples of how idea-exchange and translation happens at the Materials Innovation Factory in Liverpool. I will discuss how the building’s open design and culture influences what happens, and also how we could make it even better than it is. I will finish with some suggestions on how best to host and support translational research within UK centres of academic excellence. 


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10:50-11:20 Panel: How do universities interface better with industry and how do you turn initial interactions into something meaningful?

Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, University of Leeds
Dr John Patterson
Kate Barnard, Engineering Manager - University Research, Rolls-Royce Plc
Patrick Speedie, Co-Founder & Director, IN-PART

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11:20-13:00 Workshop




Partnerships: creating value for both sides

3 talks Show detail Hide detail


Professor Chris Warkup, Innogen Institute, The Open University

13:50-14:05 Delivering impact through academic-industry collaborations

Dr Malcolm Skingle CBE, Director, Academic Liaison, GlaxoSmithKline


Technology driven companies like GSK must continually innovate if they are to be successful in bringing new medicines to the clinic. No single technology driven company, however large, has access to enough internal intellectual capacity to be truly innovative on their own. All companies must collaborate to survive.

GSK have more academic collaborations than any other UK headquartered company. This talk will highlight areas of best practice and some of the challenges encountered at the industry-academic interface. Furthermore, the talk will suggest tips and ways to foster stronger collaborations between academia and industry.


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14:05-14:35 Panel: Value proposition on both sides of the partnership, and clarity on the challenges and potential channels of exploitation

Anne Muir, Head of Business Engagement & Commercialisation, University of Dundee
Dr Darren Budd, Commercial Director UK & Ireland, BASF Plc
Dr Michael Murray, Principal, Murray International Partners
Dr Andrea Kells, Director - Research Ecosystem (UK/EU), Arm Ltd

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14:35-16:15 Workshop


Afternoon refreshments


Case studies: attracting, training and retaining the right talent

3 talks Show detail Hide detail


Professor David Knowles FREng, CEO, Henry Royce Institute

16:40-16:50 LifeArc Technology Transfer Fellowship Scheme

Dr Georgia Gliki, Senior Business Manager, LifeArc


In 2019 LifeArc launched a new Technology Transfer Fellowship scheme run in partnership with Imperial College, Queen Mary Innovation and UCL Business (UCLB). The programme has been designed to address a shortfall in the number and in the skills of aspiring technology transfer professionals. This new initiative will support talented young professionals in their development and boost their career in the field of technology transfer by providing training and experience in four of London’s leading technology transfer environments.

The Fellows will complete 3-month rotations at each technology transfer office and will receive focused training on distinct topics at each transition. The overarching goal of the scheme is to equip the new generation of aspiring scientists with the necessary skills, business acumen and vision to help translate promising science into new treatments for patients.


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16:50-17:00 Commercial literacy – starting to equip academics for understanding life in start-ups and business

James Otter, Founder of CommLit.Online, Ellipson, and former Entrepreneur in Residence


The UK economy is built around three, almost independent, silos: government (including higher education and academia), the transactional economy (such as banks and VCs) and the value-adding economy (including innovative business). Academics who are seeking to move from government funded higher education to business often have to start in the rough and tumble world of start-ups, and are often ill equipped to make the transition. As part of his role as Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) at the University of Southampton, James has set up a Commercial Literacy course to help academics make this transition. The course is set up as a series of eight stand-alone sessions that last an hour, and based on practical experience. Modules includes accounts, how Boards work, business models, what investors want, IP (so much more than patents), lessons from turnarounds and data science for beginners. The course draws upon the skills of other Royal Society EIRs. It has been well received by budding academic entrepreneurs and tech transfer professionals alike and could easily be used by other institutions.

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17:00-17:10 Community Building, Fundamental Research and Translation in Synthetic Biology at Bristol

Professor Dek Woolfson, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Principal Investigator of BrisSynbio; Director of the Bristol BioDesign Institute, University of Bristol


BrisSynBio is one of six BBSRC/EPSRC-funded Synthetic Biology Research Centres established in 2014/15 to nucleate research in synthetic biology across the UK, and to facilitate translating this research. BrisSynBio’s science focuses on fundamental aspects of biomolecular design and engineering and applying these to advance synthetic biology.  BrisSynBio created the new post of BrisSynBio Innovation Manager to encourage and oversee the translation of this basic synthetic-biology research into real-life applications in drug discovery, new vaccine platforms, designing novel biomaterials, and biosensor development. To date, this has resulted in four new synthetic biology-based companies, 5 new patent applications, and securing £4.5M of translational funding. In addition, interactions with GSK have led to the award of a Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence, Dr David Tew, who spends part of his time in Bristol on BrisSynBio’s Innovation Programme. The University has recognised these successes by establishing the Bristol BioDesign Institute.

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Closing keynote

1 talk Show detail Hide detail

17:10-17:25 Innovation and commercialisation for UK Plc

Professor Andrew Hopper CBE FREng FRS, University of Cambridge


The strategy for maximising industrial success at the University of Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology will be described. Some 270 companies have been formed by graduates and staff of the department mostly in the last 15 years. About half have achieved critical mass and made a sustained and substantive contribution.

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Summary and closing remarks


Drinks reception

Transforming UK translation conference

This conference will highlight examples of best practise of research translation and commercialisation in the UK.

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
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