Commercialisation of Research

Research commercialization can happen in a number of ways: licensing, spin-out companies, royalties, incubation, and in-house development. In some cases, commercialization leads to actual financial gain, in others it in, creases the reputation and recognition of the researcher who originated it (and sometimes it results in neither!).

There are two key aspects to research commercialization: Intellectual Property (IP) and patents. IP is a creation of the mind (intellect) that has value as an asset (like any property). IP is more than just a theoretical idea or discovery, it is the practical manifestations and associated applications of your research. IP that can be protected in law, normally by copyright or patents, potentially becomes much more valuable. However, a patent is not an essential requirement for commercialization, and equally filing a patent application does not automatically mean successful commercialization will follow.

It is very important for researchers considering commercialization to know what rights they have and to ensure that any relationship with the private sector does not impinge their academic freedom. In addition, in big collaborative projects decisions about IP should be made very early on to avoid disputes later. Most institutions have a Tech Transfer department or a commercialization department who should be consulted.

The significance of recent scientific results differs widely across technologies. Scientific publications are a major source for patents in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, digital and basic communication, food or organic chemistry, while they play little role in other technological fields, such as transport, machine tools or civil engineering.


Some advocates of Open Science are broadly against research commercialization because it requires the results of research (e.g. datasets) to be restricted and not made available to the public (at least in the short term). However, it can also be argued that the fundamental principle of Open Science is that science should benefit society and as such commercialization that leads to practical improvements for society should be encouraged.

Helpful links: