17thJun 2011

Arkiris – Turning research into marketable innovations

The idea

Arkiris is the given name to The University of Exeter’s £3.2m Knowledge Transfer Account (KTA) funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and awarded to Exeter in March 2009. The KTA will explore a unique collaboration with the international technology company QinetiQ to exploit latent intellectual property capital in the area of Functional Materials. This will provide Tailored Electromagnetic Solutions to industrial and domestic problems. It is hoped that innovations in the markets of anti-counterfeit technology, radio-frequency identification technology, Wi-Fi efficiency and security will be achieved.

KTA’s were established to make available the resources which are necessary to overcome the barriers to exploitation of research, in order to create an environment in which knowledge transfer is valued and encouraged as much as the generation of original results. Their aim is to ensure that maximum impact is achieved from EPSRC funded projects which benefit UK PLC.

Arkiris is led by an experienced entrepreneur, seconded from QinetiQ to drive market-facing research, product development, and validation, develop business plans and secure funding for commercial exploitation through licence agreements or spin-out companies. The entrepreneur is supported by a Technical director, Project Manager and a team of Post Doctoral Research Assistants.

Arkiris activities are based around 6 work packages which are:

WP0 – Management

This work package handles all aspects of management, governance, staffing and strategy. Quarterly Board meetings are held at which the project plan is reviewed and review gates held. In addition a range of other meetings are held such as bi-weekly technical meetings and brainstorming meetings. The purpose of the brainstorm meetings is to keep a continuous focus on the patent portfolio and feed the Discovery work package with new ideas.

WP1 – Investor Culture

An obstacle to early stage technology exploitation is identifying the possible investors for the first round of funding. This work package will aim to establish an investor culture in the South West region and is intended to be a legacy of the KTA lasting well past the three year duration of the project. Existing local networks will be tapped into as well as engagement with Alumni and Financial institutions. Regular Investor Committee meetings will be held including market specific experts and friendly investors to assist with refining the business case and grooming the model for successful exploitation.

WP2 – Discovery

Focused upon the patent portfolio of existing EPSRC funded research from past UoE – QinetiQ collaborations this work package will identify and evaluate market led product opportunities. With an aim to generate potential product concepts this work package has a flexible budget that will act as seed fund to carry out preliminary investigations before the best opportunities are developed into a formal KTA investment case. Each technology will be subject to scrutiny through industry standard market evaluation tools.

WP3-5 – Formal KTA investment cases

This work package has a significant share of the overall KTA budget and will be used to take forward ideas generated in the Discovery work package. The initial results will be taken through product testing and proto-typing, validation and refinement. This work package will also work in conjunction with WP1 Investor Culture and will be subjected to investor committee meetings helping to shape the business and exploitation plan. It is from this activity that licence agreements or spin out businesses may be established.

How SETsquared/Tech transfer Office has helped

Research and Knowledge Transfer (RKT) was instrumental in negotiating the original bid with the EPSRC under their Knowledge Transfer Account (KTA) initiative (13 KTAs were awarded in the UK by EPSRC in 2009). Following approval of the funding, RKT successfully completed a complex collaboration agreement with QinetiQ and the arrangement under secondment of an entrepreneur for the project, as well as establishing a formal project delivery board - all before the project commencement date of 1st October 2009. Management of this project is handled through RKT by a formal project manager, working alongside the entrepreneur.

The project continues to receive support from the RKT office as both the Lead Entrepreneur and Project Manager are based in the RKT office. This embeds RKT activities into the project and allows for interactions across a wide range of activities.


£3.2m over three years

The Team

Delivery Board – The Delivery Board is responsible for the overall governance of the project and meets quarterly. The Board includes representatives from both the University and QinetiQ. Members are:

Professor John Sambles FRS
Professor William Barnes
Sir Robin Nicholson
Dr Andrew Shaw – (Chairperson)
Sean Fielding – Director of Research & Knowledge Transfer
Mel Brooks – QinetiQ MD for IP & Commercialisation
Peter Girow - Programmes Director - Technology Exploitation Division

Operations Team – The Operations team is headed up by Dr Andy Treen as Lead Entrepreneur and is responsible for delivering the individual work packages and day to day direction of the project.

Dr Andrew Treen – Lead Entrepreneur (QinetiQ Secondee)
Dr Chris Lawrence – Technology Director (QinetiQ)
John MacQueen – Project Manager
Dr Matt Lockyear – Post Doctoral Research Assistant
Dr Martyn Gadsdon -  Post Doctoral Research Assistant
Dr Ian Hooper - Post Doctoral Research Assistant
Simon Richards – Research Assistant