Lancaster University: £1.4m to accelerate Lancaster’s bright ideas into global opportunities

Lancaster University is set to benefit from a share of £118m funding to jumpstart knowledge exchange, translation and commercialisation.

The University has been allocated £1.4m from a pot of funding designed to support the best, brightest and most disruptive ideas emerging from research organisations across the UK.

Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAAs) support critical early-stage translation of UK research to real impacts, transforming public services, creating new jobs, attracting private investment and forging new partnerships with business and charities.

Funding allows UK teams to unlock the value of their work, including early-stage commercialisation of new technologies and advancing changes to public policy and services such as NHS clinical practice.

Impact Acceleration Accounts have a proven track record of driving economic growth, creating jobs and attractive private investment. They have been vital in turning the bright ideas of UK researchers into reality. Previous examples of work coming out of Lancaster University from this funding pool include:

Working with an educational development charity to empower local asylum seekers and refugees (AS&R) in Lancaster to feel more confident about getting involved in civic life.
Work to support policy and practice improvements for ‘special guardians’ – family members who step in to look after children at risk of entering the care system
Clinical validation of a low cost, smart, portable, easy to use diagnostic device for rapid testing and detection of viruses such as COVID-19
Quantum Base Limited (QB) – a start-up company, which had spun-out from the Quantum Technology Centre at Lancaster University. A series of IAA projects between the university and QB helped it to find markets, target specific customers and to develop compelling products. The partnership helped QB grow from employing a single person to supporting 15 currently, and from a small valuation to over £10 million in 2020.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a government body responsible for delivering £8bn research and innovation funding each year, is investing £118 million in the latest round of IAAs to translate research across 64 universities and research organisations.

Professor Louise Heathwaite, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Research and Enterprise at Lancaster University, said: “Lancaster is a leading UK research-intensive university with ambition to enhance our positive impact on the world around us. This funding enables us to build on some of the excellent work already taking place in fields from quantum technology to social care. The IAAs have been a key tool in the suite of engagement mechanisms that are used by staff across campus to collaborate with external partners. We have been awarded over £6M of IAA funding since our initial award in 2012 to support researchers across the engineering, physical, social and economic sciences.

Our overarching focus has been on addressing the cultural barriers in university-external partner collaborations using funding to both enable new partnerships and develop existing ones.

Now, thanks to this new funding, for the first time we will also be able to engage researchers within the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) remit that includes the cultural economy and creative industries.”

UKRI Director of Commercialisation Tony Soteriou, said:

“The UK is home to some of the brightest, most innovative and creative research teams in the world. They have the ideas and they have the entrepreneurial energy to create businesses and services that could turn sectors on their head.

“What they need, what every great commercial idea needs, is support in the critical early stages. The Impact Acceleration Account is the catalyst that allows projects to grow to the next level, attracting investment, forging partnerships and creating jobs.

“The breadth of UKRI allows us to work right across the UK’s world-class research and innovation system to ensure it builds a green future, secures better health, ageing and wellbeing, tackles infections, and builds a secure and resilient world.”

The £118m IAA investment over three years focuses on maximising impact, knowledge exchange, translation, and commercialisation potential within research organisations.

An important feature of the scheme is that it empowers research organisations themselves to use the funding creatively and responsively to react to emerging opportunities.

UKRI Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said:

“Research and innovation has the potential to improve people’s lives and livelihoods, rejuvenating communities across the UK and tackling global challenges. It is imperative that we harness that potential.

“The path between discovery and impact is not simple and so it is vital that we provide flexible support that allows talented people and teams, and world-class institutions to connect discovery to prosperity and public good

“Our impact acceleration funding has a fantastic track-record in providing support that helps brilliant ideas become realities that make a real difference.”

The new Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) offers a UKRI-wide simplified model with a single application with centralised reporting and monitoring that aims to improve strategic planning.

Case Study – Quantum Base Limited
At the beginning of the first IAA project in 2015, Quantum Base Limited (QB) was a recently formed start-up company, which had spun-out from the Quantum Technology Centre at Lancaster University. It held background IP covering a disruptive anti-counterfeiting technology. A series of IAA projects between the university and QB helped it to find markets, target specific customers and to develop compelling products. The most recent project has helped it to prove the mass-manufacturability of its technology, bringing products to market through its partners.

The partnership helped QB grow from employing a single person to supporting 15 currently, and from a small valuation to over £10 million in 2020. Initially, the development helped to cement ideas into patents (42 filings to date, 14 granted), then to develop these into use cases targeting specific anti-counterfeiting scenarios, then to develop products alongside other partners companies and to bring products to market. The partnership primarily helped in keeping the project’s focus on developing commercially appealing products, rather than blue skies research.

As a direct result of IAA projects, QB currently has manufacturing agreements with two large security printing companies and has successfully delivered a pilot trial to one of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers. There is enormous scope for solutions to be developed for other markets, for example, QB and Lancaster University collaborated on a large InnovateUK project (Pozibot), to embed its security technology into batteries used in smart vehicles.

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