New spin-out generator receives £5 million from Research England
A university partnership set up to promote entrepreneurship based on social-science research has been awarded five million pounds by Research England.
The funding, part of the Connecting Capability Fund, will support ‘ASPECT’ (‘A social sciences platform for entrepreneurship, commercialisation and transformation’) – a pioneering collaboration between leading universities and businesses to develop the commercial potential of social sciences.
ASPECT is a partnership with the University of Sussex, University of Manchester, University of Oxford and University of Sheffield, alongside business investors, led by the London School of Economics and Political Science.
While the creation of commercial spin-out companies based on scientific research is well established, social sciences have traditionally lagged behind in this area, with research more commonly applied to policy makers, rather than the private sector. ASPECT seeks to re-address this balance.
Programmes will be mission-led, with cohorts of participants addressing a specific economic or social problem. The aim of each cohort will be to fulfil an unmet need of at least 100 million people in the developed world through the creation of 10-15 investable businesses.
ASPECT’s work will build on an innovative approach piloted by ‘company-builder’ Zinc. More than 50 individuals from diverse backgrounds – including computer science, entrepreneurs and medicine – were in Zinc’s first incubation programme. This first cohort aims to create businesses and products to tackle the crisis in women’s and girls’ emotional and mental health by working with researchers, entrepreneurial mentors and potential investors.
Commenting on the funding and establishment of ASPECT, University of Sussex Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Michael Davies, said:
“We are pleased that this exciting initiative has received funding. While previous social science has often achieved social benefits by influencing policy and wider thinking, there has been a gap in its direct contribution to the economy and industry.
“ASPECT aims to fill this gap by both solving pressing social challenges and improving productivity, a key aim of the UK government’s recent Industrial Strategy, to bring innovative social science researchers together with top entrepreneurs and investors to create new products and businesses.”