Solutions For Our Future
Voiceover: Natasha Kaplinsky
Maximising the impact of chemistry research requires a high level of collaboration between academia and industry. Sue Saville went to meet scientists at the University of Oxford’s Department of Chemistry to see how their spin out companies and collaborations, are contributing to life changing research.
Voiceover: Sue Saville
Under the dreaming spires of Oxford, research at the Department of Chemistry has changed the way we live. Discoveries made here led to the development of antibiotics, to glucose sensors for people with diabetes, and to lithium-ion batteries that power our phones and laptops. Innovation is key; the construction of the Chemistry Research Laboratory was funded through a novel scheme, giving investors an equity share in commercial spin outs, which are managed through the subsidiary Oxford University Innovation.
Professor Graham Richards, First Chairman of Chemistry, University of Oxford
The Department here has been extraordinarily successful in setting up spin out companies, and arguably better than any department, in any subject, anywhere in the world. We’ve set up maybe 30 odd companies - more than half a dozen of them have gone public, we have contributed, probably about £300 million to the university, and built a lab at no cost to the university.
Voiceover: Sue Saville
World leading research in the Department of Chemistry crosses the borders of traditional disciplines to tackle problems like global health. An early spin out company Oxford Nanopore employs some 400 people and has raised more than £450 million, to bring easy biological analysis to anyone anywhere.
Hagan Bayley, Professor of Chemical Biology and Co-Founder of Oxford Nanopore Technologies
This tiny device sequences DNA, and most devices that sequence DNA are really enormous, so this is the first really portable device that was used to sequence the ebola virus in West Africa, and it was used to sequence Zika virus in South America, for example, so that’s a huge advantage of its portability.
Voiceover: Sue Saville
To equip postgraduates with real world skills the Department has established a ground-breaking centre for doctoral training, where a diverse range of industry partners are brought in, collaborating on the design and delivery of courses and research projects.
Professor Martin Smith, Director, EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Synthesis for Biology & Medicine
We’ve got a unique model where we’ve agreed with the University and with our industry partners not to patent or protect any of the research that comes out of the programme, so we are a genuinely open access programme. That means that we absolute freedom to collaborate, to go and talk to people about the research we’ve done and to publish without any restriction.
Xinlan Cook, 2nd Year SBM CDT Student
Industry can really see what’s happening at the early phases of academia and almost steer it towards - like - problems that are occurring in industry, but also, it allows academia to benefit from the industrial resources and breadth of knowledge.
Rob Quinlan, 3rd Year SBM CDT Student
For industry they can find a lot of benefits through the open access facilities that we have, in terms of allowing lots of people to get in on an idea and to work on idea, in order to drive innovation.
Sue Saville (to camera)
Taking innovation into the real world is part of this Department’s mission. Take for example this typical three-layered metallic air proof packaging for food, that’s very difficult to recycle, and here they are working to replace it with this thinner coated plastic that’s airtight, microwavable and can easily be recycled.
In a major collaboration with one of Asia’s leading petrochemical companies SCG, new products are driven both by pure science, and commercial need.
Professor Dermot O’Hare, Director of the SCG-Oxford Centre of Excellence in Chemistry
We have developed a new materials platform, a whole new family of layered materials and they have formed a business based around that platform, and they now want to put that into polymers, to increase their properties, make them more regenerable, more renewable, more biodegradable. I still a mad professor, come up with the - what they call disruptive things, and but yet I still have nice targets – nice targets are good when they are really well defined and then we can hit the jackpot.
Voiceover: Sue Saville:
For the University of Oxford’s Department of Chemistry, the jackpot is both exploring the boundaries of science and spawning commercial companies that make a positive and sustainable impact in the real world.