Strategic goal four: Innovation ecosystem

We will contribute greater economic, environmental, health and social benefit to society through enhancing our impact and innovation.


Innovation describes the ways in which we derive value and benefit for society from our research endeavour, in the broadest sense, and includes:

  • Impact
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Public engagement
  • Training in, and practice of, enterprise and entrepreneurship
  • Business, government, community and third-sector partnerships
  • Commercialisation of university-generated IP.

To best convert research into societal benefit requires a whole-of-institution alignment of culture and practice: to ensure our students and researchers measure their own success through the extent to which they contribute to innovation; that they understand the process of innovation and are provided with the motivation, tools, guidance, policies and time to engage in it; and that the University is extensively and closely connected to the business, government, third sector and other end-user communities that motivate, take up and further evolve our research outcomes.

We will maximise our societal impact through the three pillars of:

  • Collaborating and convening – extending our partners, networks and value-add, through enhanced community leadership that more clearly recognises and champions our value proposition
  • Commercialising – through our renewed approach to intellectual property ownership, enterprise creation, and enabling of translational activities
  • Culture – by creating a more motivated, mobilised and vibrant innovation community that values real-world application and has the agility, attributes and attitude to deliver it.

The ways in which universities and partners collaborate has changed: in a global economy, with global competition and challenges, the modes of engagement have diversified from accessing research through transactional, one-off projects towards strategic partnerships with long-term investment, two-way access to talent and knowledge, start-up engagement, embedded corporate research labs, and co-location of corporate venturing and innovation labs. Partners seek to access our talent, start-ups, space and investment opportunities. We will embrace the opportunity presented by this changing external landscape – and in so doing enhance our value to society, diversify and grow our income from research and innovation activities and improve our competitive position.

In assessing our success in enhancing our vibrant innovation ecosystem, we will be guided by the Government’s introduction of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), which is being designed to support, characterise and compare institutional-level performance in knowledge exchange activities. Within the measures being formulated, our focus will be on generating a step-change in our international reach, in growing our industry-derived income (and making an important contribution to our research income goal of £60m/year by 2021/22), and scaling technology transfer activities via a new model.

To achieve our goals, we will focus and organise around three pillars:

Collaborating and convening

Achieving greater reach and better leadership through improved internal co-ordination and a refreshed strategic approach to engagement and translation activities across all three areas of Innovation Strategy (Partnerships, Incubation & Enterprise, and Technology Transfer).


Redefining our approach to intellectual property capture and management from the bottom up to be fit for purpose now and into the future.


Embedding, amplifying and rewarding collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship in the academic life of the University of Surrey.

Objective overview

We will actively identify, nurture and manage business, government, and third-sector partners.

Collaborating and convening

We will take a more strategic approach to targeting and actively nurturing new partnerships, and to deepening and broadening existing partnerships. We will define an optimal portfolio of strategic partners (by number of partners and scale of income, by frequency/depth and mode of engagement, and by industry/SME sectors and type) whilst recognising the portfolio will evolve in response to industry and academic developments. Articulating a target portfolio will strengthen our USPs, reflect the diversity of opportunity across all faculties, and map to key sectors and national/international priorities.

We will recognise the importance of national and international partnerships in seeking to establish broader, more extensive UK-industry ties and pursuing international partners. Our strategic partnership portfolio will also reflect our strong local and regional relationships, including with the c.110 companies on the Surrey Research Park.

We aim to increase the number of strategic partnerships, which specifically advance our innovation and commercialisation agenda, e.g., accelerators and industrial innovation labs. We will work to create an entrepreneur exchange programme by sector/research theme with global incubators, accelerators and SME networks, strengthening our incubation and enterprise offer with respect to: access to overseas markets; development opportunities for our students and staff; and talent flows.

We will shift the focus of the partnership model from smaller, often reactive, bids to creation of substantial, strategic, directly sponsored collaborations through (internal and external) customer-relationship management, horizon scanning, proactively seeking, coordinating, nurturing, and brokering opportunities.

Measures of success

Our success will be measured by growth in our directly sponsored research income with business, government, or third-sector partners. As part of this success, we aim to maintain an industry-funded cohort of around 10 postdoctoral and early-career researchers – supported, mentored and incentivised to lead industrial collaborations.

A key success measure will be creation of a diverse pipeline of strategic and industrial (domestic and international) partners, including some that specifically advance our enterprise and commercialisation agenda.

Key achievements by 2022 
Direct contract research income Double
Number of strategic partners valued at more than £250k pa (or equivalent) 10
Number of managed industrial partners 20
Established Global Entrepreneur Exchange programme – with international incubators, accelerators and SMEs25

Objective overview

To support our partnership growth, we will make it easier for partners to collaborate with us, particularly those from our Surrey Research Park.

We will introduce a clear ‘route in’ for prospective partners, and a seamless way for them to navigate our organisational structures, processes, and collaboration models. The Research and Innovation Strategy will create a ‘shop window’, attracting, co-ordinating and establishing partnerships.

We will articulate and profile a comprehensive offer – knowledge, talent, facilities and networks – to our internal community, collaborators and prospective partners. Recognising that there are many ways in which we engage and that each partnership is bespoke, the collaboration framework will span sponsorship of embedded corporate research labs and appointments, along with placements, consultancy, executive education, co-location, collaborative research, doctoral training and more.

We will strengthen the linkage between main campus and the Surrey Research Park – a unique asset, local innovation ecosystem, proximal pool of prospective strategic partners, hosts of our talent and alumni, and sources of new ideas. We will formally develop a preferential package for the Surrey Research Park companies and our student and academic inventors based there, encouraging access to services and facilities in order to strengthen links and keep our talent close.

Located on the Research Park, our incubator is an enabler of knowledge exchange between companies hosted in the incubator and an external community of investors, professional services firms, academics and SMEs. We will recognise the value of these networks and the incubator as an ‘attractor’, investing in the long-term; through the incubator we can grow an SME community that is our large industrial prospective partners of the future.

Measures of success

Key measures of success of this internal repositioning will be our ability to attract new partners and cross-sell to generate repeat, sustained business.

Key achievements by 2022 
Number of new industrial partners per year30
Percentage of SRP companies with collaborative research programmes with University10 per cent

Objective objective

We will actively manage and harness our networks to extend our reach and influence.

We will recognise the importance of national and international networks, in addition to local and regional. To maximise our convening power and societal impact, we will strategically position, brief and co-ordinate our community. We will fully utilise our ‘network of networks’, introducing new ways to equip and leverage our passionate ambassadors (including all staff, student and alumni, our investor community, joint appointees, academic consultants, advisory board members, council members, and strategic partners). We will identify and target national and international prizes, awards, and board positions.

We will make it easier to engage and host key government stakeholders, enhancing the volume, frequency and quality of our interactions. New convening platforms and physical and digital spaces – launched in conjunction with the Surrey Research Park, Advancement, Internationalisation, Marketing and Communications, Events, the Doctoral College and Surrey Business School colleagues – will enable us to connect and influence in new ways; helping us to understand industrial challenges and market opportunities, influence policy, set new standards, shape our research questions, inspire our community and profile our talent.

We will create new content and occasions to inspire our community and showcase our vibrant enterprising community of student entrepreneurs, academic inventors, start-ups, Surrey Research Park tenants and Surrey100 angel investor club members to our government stakeholders, SMEs and strategic partners.

Measures of success

Our success will be measured by growth in the number of our business/government/third-sector advisory or board positions, and doubling staff participation in executive education and consultancy activities – boosting our influence at all levels. We aim to transform our engagement with partners by establishing new convening platforms.

Key achievements by 2022 
Number of staff holding external advisory positions, delivering executive education or consultancyDoubled
New convening platforms on campus for our strategic partnersSME/industry club, annual social innovation lecture series and flagship enterprise event

Objective overview

We will rejuvenate and scale the technology transfer model, shifting the focus from exploitation to nurturing.

We will take a strategic approach to increase the societal impact of, and income from, technology transfer, commercialisation and enterprise activities. We will develop metrics to characterise and track our innovation performance across the organisation, with sector benchmarking and in alignment with the KEF. We will publish a new intellectual property (IP) strategy to: formalise and make transparent our approach to evaluating and managing IP; make visible our latent IP; assess the value of existing agreements and partnerships; ensure support, at scale, for seed-, early-stage, spin-out and scale-up through dedicated University-affiliated funds and expertise; launch a spin-out programme to support academic inventors to commercialise University IP; grow our pipeline of quality invention disclosures across all faculties, ultimately broadening deal flow through both patents/licensing and (impact-/revenue-generating) spin-outs.

We will prioritise increasing the translational activities and commercialisation income from our established major centres/programmes (as defined by scale of research investment). This will be achieved by:

  • Designing and implementing centre-specific or cross-faculty thematic (e.g., health, or social innovation) commercialisation strategies
  • Establishing a student programme with Surrey Business School to re-examine and develop historic, latent IP
  • The dedicated technology transfer expertise across all faculties

In conjunction with colleagues across the Doctoral College and Employability and Careers, we will broaden the primary translation mechanism of the Impact Acceleration Accounts – moving from feeding the pipeline of invention disclosures into the Technology Transfer Office, to including other mechanisms of societal impact, such as industrial placements and influencing policy.

We will make it easier and more rewarding for entrepreneurs and inventors to translate and commercialise their research. We will refresh our technology transfer and translation policies and agreements, recognising the need for clear guidance and frameworks together with flexibility (not a ‘one-size fits all’ approach) and timely approvals and decision-making. The IP Code, Consultancy and Subsidiary policies will reflect our aspirations, and be communicated widely, and consistently applied.

We aim to increase the proportion of staff/student start-ups and spin-outs in the Surrey Research Park community, establishing the Research Park as the location of choice for our student and academic inventors.

Measures of success

Success will be indicated by doubling deal flow (through patents/licensing) across all faculties, through spin-out activity, and through performance in KEF and related exercises. As part of this success, we aim to maintain a portfolio of around 30 active and revenue-generating spin-out companies – both partly-owned by the University and ‘formal’ (i.e., using IP originating at Surrey) – across all faculties, whilst providing accessible and dedicated funds and expertise for all stages, from ideation to scale-up, and positioning the Surrey Research Park as the location of choice. We will monitor progress by assessing the number of active first-time/serial academic or student inventors, the number of spin-out companies, the sector(s), their annual turnover, the number located on our Surrey Research Park, associated job creation, and their growth and ability to scale.

Key achievements by 2022 
University ranking in KEF cluster Top five
Commercialisation activity and income through patents/licensingDoubled
Number of centres/programmes with a bespoke commercialisation strategyFive
Portfolio of active and revenue-generating spin-out companies30

Objective overview

We will establish innovation as core business.

We will facilitate, incentivise and reward all members of our community – from students, to postgraduate, postdoctoral and early-career researchers, established academics and professional services staff – to participate in innovation activities. Noting that time-poor staff and students already juggle competing priorities and contend with the tension to publish or patent, we will review our selection and promotion criteria to ensure innovation activities are acknowledged to the same extent as other core academic activities. We will redefine our reward-to-inventor policy and introduce ‘innovation sabbaticals’.

We will make our entrepreneurs and inventors from the student, academic and alumni communities more visible and celebrate their successes, inspiring and sharing best practice, for example, through the publication of ‘innovation stories’ and creation of new innovation subcategories within the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards.

We will up-scale the proportion of staff and students engaged in enterprise creation through transitioning to a long-term, sustainable funding model for enterprise, and launching new funds in partnership. Incubation and enterprise has strong foundations and critical mass, including numerous established programmes and awards, an engaged Surrey100 angel investor community, and leverages the SETsquared brand. Strengthening our student enterprise offer has the potential to transform the student experience. We will make our incubation and enterprise offer accessible, clearly packaging the variety of programmes available for students, academics, professional services staff, industrial and SME partners and the Surrey Research Park community through both the Surrey and SETsquared brands, and by sector/theme. We will scale the offer to make it comprehensive for both staff and students. This means providing support (in terms of expertise, funds and physical spaces) at all stages of the journey – from ideation, to seed, incubation, micro, scale-up and spin-out – along with access to networks of accelerators, investors, and grow-on space, and an enterprise educational programme (in conjunction with SETsquared and the Doctoral College).

Measures of success

A key success measure will be sustaining a vibrant innovation community across all faculties.

Key achievements by 2022 
Staff engaged with partnerships, incubation and enterprise, executive education, consultancy or TTO40 per cent
Innovation activitiesBalanced alongside teaching and research activities in all staff selection and promotion criteria

Measuring success

See a summary of all the measures of success of this strategic goal.

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