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The IP Long-Tail

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It's been over 12 years since Chris Anderson published his seminal article 'The Long Tail'. In it he descried an emerging economic model where he argued that products in low demand or that have a low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters. Anderson mainly focused on the media and entertainment industries but it is tantalising to think of what is produced in the daily churn of a research focused organisation that is not known about, not utlised and not generating income. In the media industries it is obvious Anderson's predictions were right. Businesses that built in the long-tail to their business model have won out over more limited offers. For example Spotify, Netflix, Amazon (the kings of the long-tail) and Steam.

Within technology transfer however, the disruption is yet to hit. Time and effort is largely concentrated on the big, exclusive deals or on hiring out expertise on a consultancy basis. Whilst these are viable and valid, the opportunities with non-exclusive IP still remain relatively unexplored. The line between the exploited and unexploitable is what Clay Shirky describes as the 'Coasean floor'—below which we find projects and activities that aren't worth their organisational costs. In technology transfer, those costs are the expensive legal and business management fees that make licensing, even a £500 piece of software, nonsensical.

However, digital tools such as E-lucid radically lower that coasean floor. It's a centralised platform that automates the project management and legal process to a point where licensing a £500 piece of software is not only feasible but has dramatically less overheads associated with it, generating income for the organisation, potentially for years, with little or no further work needed—discoverable by a global customer base.

Why online express licensing can be a pillar of your HEFCE knowledge exchange strategy

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As reported by PraxisUnico last month, HEFCE have asked English universities with Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) for 2016-17 to submit a five year institutional knowledge exchange (KE) strategy. It is intended that these strategies will form the basis of future HEIF allocations.

In particular, HEFCE are looking for more specific details on the outcomes and impacts that universities will make on the economy and society, noting that they hope that an increased focus on long-term impact can help to counter the concern that universities ‘focus unduly on income’.

An express licensing tool such as E-lucid can provide a practical, affordable way of addressing this concern. E-Lucid helps to make the dissemination of lower value assets more cost-effective – thus driving wider adoption and enabling participation in technology licensing from departments and academics who may typically fall below the ‘value’ radar for a TTO.

HEFCE also state that they want to understand how universities collaborate with each other ‘to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of public funding’. E-lucid was itself was developed at UCL Business, partly under HEIF funding and with a mission to stimulate collaboration and sharing of best practises around lower value, non-exclusive IP licensing. It is already being used at 5 of the UKs top 20 universities and this group of users meet regularly to exchange knowledge and experience to help build a more robust express licensing landscape.

Finally, E-lucid provides evidence of a University’s impact - whether a financial measure, or simply the dissemination reach and volume of non-commercial licensing. It provides a simple conduit for income to flow into the TTO and as a managed service, is quick and easy to set-up.

If you would like to talk to us how E-lucid could be a pillar of your five-year knowledge exchange strategy, get in touch.