Scotland has created more university spinout companies than any other part of the UK over the past 10 years, according to a new report.
There are currently 800 active university spinouts in the UK which have attracted over £1bn investment over the past two years.
Over the past decade Scotland has led the way in terms of producing university spinouts with 20 per cent of the UK total (26 per cent in 2012 alone) – ahead of London and the South East of England with 15 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.
Scottish universities dominate the UK top ten in the creation of spinouts in the three years 2010-12 with Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Strathclyde, and Heriot Watt rubbing shoulders with Oxford and Cambridge.
During the period measured, life sciences spinouts made up the largest proportion of the total for any industry in the UK (42 per cent).
Spinouts are defined as companies formed to exploit intellectual property owned by a university and do not include start-ups, which are formed without intellectual property.
The PraxisUnico Spinouts Survey, supported by Marks & Clerk, is the first comprehensive overview of the sector looking at 1,500 spinouts and start-up companies.
Paul Chapman, a patent attorney and partner at Marks & Clerk, said:.
“This survey shows Scottish universities are up there with the likes of Oxford and Cambridge when it comes to commercialising their research. Over the past decade Scotland has been a market leader in terms of creating spinout companies.
"Providing suitable infrastructure to support new spinouts is equally important and Scotland has excellent facilities such as in the Edinburgh BioQuarter, West of Scotland Science park, Biocity Scotland and Dundee and Edinburgh Technopoles.
“But there can be no room for complacency. The impact of austerity cuts was picked up by this study which showed that universities across the UK were spinning out fewer companies in 2012 than in 2011. It is vital to the success of the Scottish economy that we continue to use our world class science base to generate new businesses and grow jobs through spinouts.”
One example of a successful Scottish spin-out company is i2eye diagnostics, which span out of Edinburgh University in 2010. It is now forecasting growth of £4.5 million in four years.
The company is behind a pioneering device to map visual defects that may be associated with brain tumours and other serious conditions in vulnerable people. The company has attracted almost £1m worth of funding to date and its new technology is being trialled in hospitals around the world.
The new device is user-friendly for the patient. It does not require complicated instructions or the patient to have their head restrained during the eye test.
Peter Estibeiro, chief executive officer of i2eye diagnostics, said: “Scotland also has a highly sophisticated network of investment syndicates including Kelvin Capital who backed i2eye from an early stage. It’s a uniquely Scottish combination of world-class intellectual property, willing investors and committed support form Scottish Enterprise that is driving our exciting spin-out culture.
“Medical research needs funding, technical expertise and highly experienced management teams so that the resulting spinout companies can thrive in the commercial environment.
“Our new perimetry device uses eye-tracking to watch the patient’s natural reactions and build up a standard visual field map. It should soon be found in routine use in hospitals and specialist eye centres around the world.”
Around a third of the UK population is unable to use machines which test peripheral vision by relying on the subject pressing a button in response to moving or flashing lights, and sitting very still for several minutes.
This means it can be used on far more people, including those who would have difficulty quickly pressing a button. A prototype machine is already in use for examining children at Edinburgh Sick Kids hospital.
The i2eye device has been launched by the Edinburgh BioQuarter – the commercialisation arm of Europe's fastest-growing academic medical centre.