One of the core functions of OUI is creating economic impact from Oxford ideas. Externally, this translates into technologies and companies which can create jobs and economic growth, academic consultants adding value to corporations and organisations, and inspiring a new wave of entrepreneurs.
Internally, we create an economic return for the University, its departments, and its academics. That’s where Team Finance comes in.
“One example of what we do in addition to the usual finance functions is managing the distributions of royalty income back to the inventors, the University and any 3rd party funders,” said Gemma Allnutt, Senior Accountant. “Just before lockdown, we processed distributions for autonomous vehicle spinout Oxbotica, which comprises over 80 combined projects for one company back to the University.”
“This has been even more important in recent months and has really made a difference for our academics, some of whom haven’t been able to do as much consultancy work as they used to,” added Bridget Rhoades-Brown, Finance Assistant. “Replies used to be a quick ‘oh thanks’, now we’re seeing academics come back and expressing just how grateful they are that we were able to get them their payments.”
Under lockdown, this has proven challenging at times for the team. Imlak Bezuye, who works primarily on chasing up payments, said he’s had to be creative in ensuring academics get their due.
“In one case, we had a company who owed an academic for consultancy, but was refusing to pay as the company was on lockdown and not paying some external suppliers. I pursued the debt pointing out that they couldn’t apply preferential treatment and successfully secured payment.”
Working in tandem
Imlak also highlighted another case where Finance worked in tandem with staff in Licensing and Ventures to bring in an overdue payment worth £170,000.
“For me, it was a great display of teamwork across the organisation to get the job done,” he added.
Michaela Bjola, Royalties Officer, said this is what the job is about.
“We move money from OUI to Oxford University. I look back on the past year, and I think it’s a fantastic achievement that we’ve been able to return £16.6m to the University.”
Katy Bruce, who heads up the Finance Department, said that the achievement of getting money earned from Oxford’s ideas back to the people who create them gives a great sense of pride to the team, but highlighted that it isn’t their only function.
“We’ve been doing a big piece of work in understanding the pending changes to IR35, legislation relevant to consulting activities. Nothing was drafted with regards to how it impacts on technology transfer, so we had to interpret it and see how it affects OUI, our spinouts and our consultants.
“in addition, we’ve provided strategic support to two of the ‘up and coming’ teams in OUI: Clinical Outcomes and the Incubator. With Clinical Outcomes, we’ve worked closely with its lead, David Churchman, to provide him with key financial information and strengthen his business, while we’ve helped the Incubator with their financial decisions and to track matched funding from Santander.”
The team has also been responsible in recent months for the integration of Sicon WAP, a tool for processing invoices in a virtual environment which has proved crucial to the smooth running of OUI under lockdown.
“The Finance Team may not be front and centre of our press releases about IP transactions, but they are a core part of the OUI team,” said Adam Stoten, COO of OUI. “Their tireless work in making sure the money contributes to the financial sustainability of OUI and the receipt by the University and third party funders of commercialisation proceeds that can be recycled back into impactful research.”
- Returns to the University: £16.6m (+82%)
- Total income: £24.9m (+37%)
- Investment in patents: £5.6m
It’s been a big piece of work in understanding IR35, a new piece of legislation relevant to consulting activities. Nothing was drafted with regards to how it impacts on technology transfer, so we had to interpret it and see how it affects OUI, our spinouts and our consultants.