With a rich catalogue spanning the sciences and world-class outputs, Oxford’s tech portfolio can add serious value to any company. But how do we find the right home for our IP?
By Rosalind French, Post Deal Relationship Manager, OUI
As the UK’s preeminent university patent holder, Oxford University has a dense portfolio of technologies available for licence to companies, which stretches across all the physical and life sciences.
Each has the potential to have an impact either economically or to society, or both. Consequently, it is crucial to OUI that we find the right home for each technology with licensees that have the know-how, vision and resources to develop our IP in an effective manner.
To help with this, over the past two years, the Operations team at OUI has developed a methodology for scoring existing licensees in terms of their suitability. This helps us to focus our resource when managing an increasingly large portfolio of licensees and enhances internal communication in relation to the licensee portfolio.
Our scoring methodology is based around four criteria: credit-worthiness, overall relationship with a licensee, how licensees are using the technology and the quality of reporting and information flow.
We assess each point thusly:
- The credit-worthiness criterion is based on a quantitative measure, namely, the average number of days that a licensee takes to pay.
- The overall relationship criterion takes into account the willingness of a licensee to interact with OUI and participate in the licence agreement, in addition to their perceived transparency.
- We assess whether a licensee is following the development plan as set out in the licence and thereby creating impact from the intellectual property licensed.
- The quality of reporting criterion is a measure of how the licensee follows their obligations in the licence agreement and their willingness to share information.
We use a score of one (low) to three (high) for each criterion (see below). We have developed our own definitions for each score to maintain consistency, for instance, a ‘High’ score on ‘Quality of reporting’ would mean that a licensee reports on time according to the licence and follows the reporting clauses in full.
Figure 1: Criteria and score headings
We multiply the individual scores together to give an overall score for each licensee (‘Multiple’) and detail a justification for each score. The results can be displayed in chart format and trends observed.
Figure 2: Scores; multiple; score justifications using framework. Please note that Licensees #1, #2 and #3 are not real licensees and the scoring is merely illustrative
The scoring can be reviewed periodically or as required to provide a current overall view of the condition of the licence portfolio.
OUI plans to continue to use and develop the scoring methodology, adding more licensees and refining/updating the scores and consistency in approach.
Measuring trust and consistent scoring
Ultimately, the question we’re looking to answer with this is do we trust that our licensees will do the best job in developing our IP? To answer that, the scoring methodology set out above takes into account three dimensions of trust measurable by the Grunig Relationship Instrument as described by the Institute for Public Relations (1): competence, integrity and dependability/reliability.
Trust is generally described as having the characteristic of being multilevel, and in our situation we have taken account of the different parts of the business that are affected by the licence agreement, such as the finance function, our business relationship with the licensee and the legal compliance with the agreement. Another characteristic of trust is that it is communication-based. For OUI, this means we look to receive accurate information from licensees, that licensees provide explanations where necessary and for licensees to demonstrate appropriate openness. Trust can often be dynamic so needs to be measured over a period of time.
It goes without saying that organisations need to decide what is important to them and find a way to measure it; one organisation’s metric may not work for another. To aid in this, there are some questions that you can ask:
- What is important to my organisation? What are our specific goals and objectives? What stakeholder groups impact our success?
- Decide on your metrics
- Establish a benchmark – what do you want to compare results to?
In a PwC white paper on trust insight (2), the authors describe three trust drivers: competence trust (whether or not the organisation ‘does what it says on the tin’), experience trust (whether the organisation consistently meets the stakeholder’s expectations) and values trust (whether the organisation and the stakeholder share common values). Again, the OUI scoring systems draws upon these three elements of trust: we are expecting our licensees to develop the intellectual property licensed, to keep us up-to-date on progress or any issues and to comply with their obligations in the licence agreement.
Guidance on HR performance rating can also be applied to the area of licensee scoring, in particular when thinking about ensuring consistency in scoring (3). It can be useful to gather multiple perspectives across the business to validate and/or enhance the scoring methodology. Using consistent language in comments is key, and having a second review to check calibration may be useful. It is sensible to consider whether a criterion or category could be evaluated inconsistently. As a general comment, detailed rating schemes will probably tend to result in more consistent ratings.
It’s still early days for our methodology, but we hope this initial work proves interesting and useful to organisations like ourselves. Likewise, we’d be interested to hear from other university innovation operations or other organisations who have thought about trust so we can explore the topic together.