Interview with Professor Andy Hopper, Cambridge Computer Laboratory

In this video, Andy Hopper, entrepreneur and head of the Computer Laboratory at Cambridge University, discusses how universities should fund start-ups and release intellectual property.

Cambridge Computer Laboratory is celebrating its 75th anniversary in April. One of the world's first computers, Edsac, was developed at the lab and it has helped to form over 200 successful start-ups.

Hopper, who helped establish Acorn Computers and has formed and backed many start-ups, says university start-up funding in the UK needs to change.

Universities should also be measured not only on the breadth and depth of their research as measured by published papers, but also by the number of successful start-ups they have supported.

"The Research Excellence Framework is counterproductive to innovation," he says.

"We did the Raspberry Pi endeavour, which, in my opinion, has been a very successful platform. But the Research Excellence Framework does not recognise this."

Hopper suggests a different funding model. "One thing I'm encouraging is for universities to release intellectual property more easily," he says. 

Universities tend to ask a very high price for intellectual property (IP). This deters many from seeking university funding or attempting to licence the potentially valuable research produced by the academic system, leading to what Hopper describes as "IP shelfware".

"Universities should have a small share holding in each startup, which isn't really negotiated," he says.

"From the university's point of view, this is a volume strategy, so there is a better chance of some start-ups succeeding."

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