Our intellectual property code

This Code sets out the University's rules regarding intellectual property (IP) which has (or may have) commercial value (hereafter termed commercially valuable IP) and provides guidance on the University’s policy and procedures on matters of creation, protection, and exploitation of such IP and remuneration to its creators.

Intellectual Property Code

Guiding principles

In all matters relating to the flow of commercially valuable IP, services and technology out of, and into, the University of Surrey, our thinking and position will be guided by three principles:

1. Value for society

That the University’s collective decision-making on IP should create positive impact and be for the public benefit

2. Primacy of the creator(s)

That the creator(s) responsible for the IP will be the primary influence on the negotiations necessary to

  1. fund the research
  2. agree ownership of the invention or arising IP
  3. agree how that invention should be used for the public benefit.

3. Empowerment, efficiency and accountability

That University professional services will enable researchers and other creators of IP to efficiently engage directly with outside bodies on the understanding that they adhere to University policies and provide the University with visibility of their activities to ensure that Principle 1 is respected.

What is commercially valuable IP?

Commercially valuable IP refers to any IP which will (or may) create income for the University. It encompasses any discovery, invention, document, design or research result and includes, but is not limited to, algorithms, software, chemical compounds, processes, and data arising from experiments. The Technology Transfer Office manages intellectual property which has (or may have) commercial value.

The University Library oversees policies that are concerned with managing IP which has no commercial value, such as most copyright on published works. Doctoral or other students can ask the Technology Transfer Office to authorise the embargo of a thesis from being published by the Library in order to preserve commercial value.

Ownership of IP

Any employee or student who has created IP is obliged to declare that invention or other aspect to the Technology Transfer Office, via an Invention Disclosure Form.

Protecting commercially valuable IP

The University, at its own discretion and at its own cost, will protect its commercially valuable IP (subject to any restrictions in the funding terms). This may include patenting an invention or registering a name or logo as a trademark, for example.

Sharing income from IP commercialisation with the creator(s)

The Technology Transfer Office will make reasonable efforts to generate income from IP (such as licensing it to an industry partner). Any income received will be shared with the creator(s) of the IP, once the University has recouped any external costs that it incurred in protecting the IP.


The creator(s) of the IP, in partnership with the University, may wish to found a company to commercialise their work. Start-up companies founded by employees/students in which the University has a shareholding (e.g., owns part of the company) are known as ‘spin-outs’. The shareholding to the University is given in return for access to University-owned IP, and/or access to University equipment and facilities.


Patents are the formal legal method by which some inventions can be protected. In some research areas (such as biosciences and oncology), it can take many millions of pounds of investment by a commercial company to bring a new drug, or cure for a disease, to market. They can only hope to recover this investment, and will only license from the University, if the core invention (e.g., the drug, or molecule, or biomarker) is properly protected.


Software source code is deemed as a document with commercial value and, as such, the University of Surrey has automatic protection under copyright. If you have created software which you think may have commercial value, then it should be declared to the Technology Transfer Office via our Invention Disclosure Form. Our team will work with you to identify potential licensees.

Managing IP created by visitors to the University

Visitors from other academic institutions or industry partners who work on site at the University of Surrey are not employees of the University and therefore many aspects of this code do not apply to them. However, any contract or agreement signed between the University and a visitor must include reference to this Code.

Managing IP created by our staff/students who are visiting other organisations or working on secondment

Employees/students of the University of Surrey, who work within other organisations, as either visitors or on secondment, are likely to be asked to sign legal agreements or abide by the policies issued by the host organisation. These agreements are likely to contain clauses that explain how the host organisation would prefer to manage any new arising IP created. For this reason, please check with the Technology Transfer Office before finalising any such agreements so that we can advise you on whether the rights of the University, and your rights as the creator of IP, may be negatively affected.

Managing IP in collaborations with academic and industry partners

The University understands that part of the benefit for industry partners of collaborating is their wish to access background (pre-existing) or foreground (new, arising) IP created by researchers at the University. Commercial companies very often want exclusive access, or ownership of University-owned IP so that they can create a competitive advantage for themselves in their market. This desire to create an advantage for a single company sometimes runs counter to the University’s charitable mission to benefit society as widely as possible.

Senior management executive mandate

The University senior management team (the Executive Board) reserves the right to alter the University’s pre-defined initial positions in order to create, sustain, or grow a major corporate relationship with prospects to deliver, or delivering substantial benefits to the University. For example, a major corporate partner may wish to own all arising IP outright and not permit the University to license back the IP for educational or research purposes. In this situation, the senior management team permits this to take place because the major corporate partner is financially or otherwise supporting the University in other significant ways.

Your right to appeal

The University understands that in the course of commercialising your invention you may not agree with all the decisions made. You have a right to appeal if you feel a decision is unfair, as follows:


  • Write to the Head of Technology Transfer (HOTT) at techtransfer@surrey.ac.uk with details about the decision you wish to challenge.
  • The HOTT will invite you and one other person of your choice to a meeting with the HOTT and one other person of their choice.
  • If agreement is not reached at this meeting, then the matter will be referred to a second meeting attended by the original meeting participants as well as the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation (PVC-RI) and a second person of your choice.
  • If agreement is not reached at this meeting, then the matter will be presented to a final meeting between the PVC-RI, one person of your choice, and either the Provost or the Vice-Chancellor. Their decision will be final.

Annex 1 - Rights and obligations relating to performer’s rights