Meet the university-industry matchmaker, IN-PART, unlocking innovation from academic research

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IN-PART is an online matchmaking platform for university-industry collaboration. Some people have compared it to a match.com for academia and industry. At IN-PART, we help to unlock innovation from research by simplifying the process through which discoveries made in universities and research institutes are developed into new products, drugs and technologies via collaboration with industry.

Since the platform launched in January 2014, IN-PART has initiated over 5,000 new interactions between academia and industry. The conversations that have resulted from these new connections have led to everything from grant funding for collaborative research, co-development projects, and testing new materials and proprietary compounds, to product development, licensing deals, and long-term strategic partnerships.

Where did the idea come from?

The Founders of IN-PART, Patrick Speedie and Robin Knight, arrived at the idea for the platform while sharing a pint of beer in London. Although, their story goes a lot further back than that (they were best friends at school).

In a pub one evening near London Bridge, Robin and Patrick were catching up, sharing their recent experiences of the difficulty in starting new conversations between academia and industry. At the time, Robin was a postdoctoral researcher at Kings College London. He was faced with the challenge of getting a discovery that his team had made seen by the right people in industry. Patrick was working at an IP publishing house, and at a conference the previous week he witnessed a spontaneous encounter between an academic and an R&D manager who had been looking for each other’s expertise for years.

They wondered if there was an easier way to connect the worlds of academia and business, and over the coming weeks sketched out their idea and drew up a business plan. The concept: an online platform that connects academia and industry by alerting R&D teams to commercially-viable academic research in their areas of interest, with a team on-hand to organise and coordinate the initial introduction.

Who uses IN-PART?

We have come a long way since 2014, where we had 6 UK universities and 50 R&D companies using the platform. IN-PART now provides an output for early-stage innovation from over 220 universities and research institutes across 6 continents. These include Columbia, Cornell, UPenn, Max Planck, Leiden, Vienna, Lund, Erasmus Medical Centre, Osaka, Hokkaido, Queensland, the Australian National University and the University of Hong Kong, along with leading UK institutes such as Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Manchester.

To find new industry partners for our academic clients, we have established relationships with R&D professionals across a network of 5,500+ research-intensive companies, including teams in all of the top 25 global R&D-spending firms. And this network grows daily. Already this year we’ve had heads of R&D, product development managers, principal scientists, and open innovation leads at Roche, J&J, GSK, Samsung, IBM, and Google X sign up to use the platform.

How does it work?

Using smart matchmaking algorithms and proactive outreach, we are able to send personalised alerts to R&D professionals with relevant breakthroughs in their area from academic researchers. When an R&D professional sees a project on IN-PART that is of interest, we initiate an introduction to the relevant individual at the university.

But when an R&D team with matching interests declines an opportunity that we send them, we capture their response and pass it back to the university, providing a valuable insights into how projects needs to be further developed and better positioned for commercialisation. We also track interaction data through the platform to provide metrics of engagement that form the basis for more informed decision-making about commercialisation.

Our business model is straightforward. IN-PART is free to access for companies. Universities and research institutes pay an annual subscription to showcase their research and opportunities on the platform. We don’t claim royalties and we don’t take a cut of any deals. IN-PART’s founders built the company this way to maximize accessibility to university research, providing the greatest chance for it to impact society by getting it out of the lab and onto the market.

Making IN-PART free for companies removes any barriers for them to access innovation from academia. It also means that we work in close contact with the people in universities who are responsible for technology transfer, knowledge exchange, and research commercialisation. This ensures that the opportunities on the platform are up-to-date, and that the individuals responsible for the research are actively looking to work with industry. Fundamentally, this business models allows us to initiate meaningful conversations between engaged individuals in academia and industry.

What’s in store for the future?

In April, we announced our Founders secured a €1.1-million investment to boost our international growth and accelerate the development of our matchmaking platform for university-industry collaboration. With this, we will be able to expand our team with key strategic expertise, and continue to improve the functionality of the platform and the service we offer.

Looking beyond the matchmaking platform, we are also working to scale-up a new product, called Discover. Where our matchmaking platform provides a ‘technology push’ into industry for universities, Discover provides a ‘market pull’ for industry.

Using Discover, corporate R&D teams can leverage the relationships IN-PART has established with teams across an extended academic network. This allows companies to directly engage relevant teams in universities with their technology or expertise requirements or solicit proposals for new research from academia. In short, we have developed a unique system for R&D teams to leverage an engaged global university network.

With both our Discover system and matchmaking platform, our vision is to further establish IN-PART as the go-to platform for connecting universities and academic institutes worldwide.


To learn more about how IN-PART can help your institute or company access a global network of innovation, start a conversation with our team via alex@in-part.co.uk