The University of Southampton

EPSRC funding boost for science innovation

Published: 16 November 2012

The University of Southampton has been awarded part of a £60m investment in UK universities to help the most pioneering scientists and engineers create successful businesses from their research, improve industrial collaboration, and foster greater entrepreneurship. 

Southampton's award of £3.2 million - the country's 5th highest award amongst 31 successful institutions - was announced by Business Secretary Vince Cable during Global Entrepreneurship Week. 

The funding comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the UK’s leading funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, to create ‘Impact Acceleration Accounts’. These Accounts will support the very early stage of turning research outputs into a commercial proposition – the gap between a research idea and developing it to a stage where a company or venture capitalist might be interested. 

The Accounts will also allow universities to fund secondments for scientists and engineers to spend time in a business environment or for industrial partners to directly access leading edge research relevant to their business needs. In this way, the account will help stimulate the economy by helping companies become more innovative and provide them with a competitive advantage. This will also better equip our next generation of researchers by improving their knowledge, skills and understanding of the way companies operate and the challenges they face. 

The Business Secretary said: “The UK's scientists are some of the most innovative and creative people in the world, but they need support to take their best ideas through to market. This investment will help our leading universities become centres of innovation and entrepreneurship, generating commercial success to fuel growth.” 

Don Spalinger, Director of Research and Innovation Services at the University of Southampton welcomed the funding, saying "The University welcomes the Impact Acceleration Account from the EPSRC as a valuable support to its research and enterprise strategy. Not only will it serve to significantly assist staff in engaging in industrial collaboration and commercialisation opportunities but will also further raise the profile and long-standing reputation of the University as an entrepreneurial institution." 

The main activities to be supported by the Southampton Impact Acceleration Account will be flexible secondments to the University and into regional businesses; internships for postgraduate research students to work in local start-up companies and the development of technology to market readiness. Not only will these activities benefit the commercialisation of University research, they will directly support small-to-medium sized enterprises (SME's) like Covesion, an innovative photonics manufacturing company, based in Romsey, Hampshire, which successfully spun out of research from the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre. 

Industry secondments from the University to Covesion have helped to accelerate the commercial development of the company's revolutionary laser crystal technology. Over the last three years, Covesion has benefitted from access to facilities and intellectual expertise brought directly into the company to quickly bring their ground-breaking developments to new global markets. 

Mark Middleton, CEO of Covesion Ltd, commented “Via the various knowledge transfer schemes Covesion has in place with the University of Southampton, Covesion has been able to create a product portfolio supporting many growth markets and emerging opportunities. Access to the ORC’s world-leading clean-room facilities and expertise has put Covesion at the forefront of our technology, developing a commercial base of over 350 companies world-wide with revenues doubling year-on-year.” 

BBC South Today  - Story located 11:35 minutes into programme.

EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Research Sciences Council) - find out more.


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