By Marcus Leach

A £760,000 competition to support and improve the way in which universities can maximise innovation has been launched by Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Wilcox.

The Fast Forward Competition encourages Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Public Sector Research Establishments (PSREs) to work together with businesses and local communities to share research, innovation and intellectual property (IP). The aim is to invest in research and knowledge transfer projects that have the potential to create new companies or services which benefit both the UK economy and society.

A total prize fund of £760,000 has been allocated. Applicants can bid for funding ranging from £10,000 to £100,000 for proposals that will improve the way in which their intellectual property and knowledge exchange is managed.

“The development of intellectual property at UK institutions is vital to help them provide the starting blocks for new businesses to grow. By investing in innovative ideas at an early stage we will be giving institutions the best possible chance to support the future economic growth of the UK," Baroness Wilcox said.

“The Fast Forward competition recognises that education establishments are where ground breaking ideas can be developed and turned into success stories.”

One of the previous winners, The University of Nottingham, is working with the Design Council to develop a national programme helping universities use design to commercialise technology and other intellectual property. They jointly won the top Fast Forward grant of £100,000.

"Sharing what we continue to discover about the use of design in technology transfer will benefit commercialisation of high quality research outputs not only at universities like Nottingham, but also other universities and colleges throughout the UK," Dr George Rice, Manager of the University’s Technology Demonstrator said.

"A continually refreshed cohort of design-savvy technology transfer practitioners might then begin to uncover new and exciting opportunities that they had not previously considered."

The London College of Fashion also benefited from the competition and were awarded £80,000. The fashion industry is essential to the UK economy, generating £6.6 billion of GVA to the UK in 2009/10. Their ‘Protecting the Fashion Economy’ project will help to build a knowledge bank and tools for students to ensure that their IP is protected and prevent any potential economic loses.

“The IPO award has enabled the London College of Fashion to undertake action research to uncover improvements and recommendations that will benefit the fashion economy, enhance student entrepreneurial skills and further develop the interface between the college and industry," Wendy Malem, Dean of Enterprise and International Development at the college said.

The closing date for competition proposals to be received is 30 December 2011.

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