#FoundersFriday with Patrick Speedie from IN-PART
We are very excited to bring you a new interview for our #FoundersFriday blog series!
If you’ve missed our previous posts, Founders Friday is a platform in which we interview the founders of different science and technology businesses, asking them to share their advice for others and their perspective on the industry as a whole.
For this edition, we have interviewed Patrick Speedie (@JPSpeedie), co-founder of IN-PART, the matchmaking platform that provides university technology transfer teams with access to a global network of research and development decision makers.
What is IN-PART? Why was creating IN-PART necessary?
There is a wealth of knowledge and innovation locked up within universities around the world that we want to enable to have an impact on society. Some of the world’s greatest innovations have come out of academic research (the Internet, Google, Penicillin, etc.), and we want to help more of these innovations get into the real world.
Our idea to assist this process was IN-PART, an online platform that makes the initial connection for technology transfer between universities and companies simple, efficient and scalable. We have built a system to showcase groundbreaking innovations from universities using matchmaking algorithms and natural language processing that match each technology (ranging from morphing wings for aerospace, to cancer therapies and complex polymers) with companies that have an interest in that area. Our goal is to connect them to discuss the potential of working together and also to encourage companies to give feedback to universities about possible routes to market. We also generate data relating to market feasibility which we feedback to each university team to help guide their projects toward commercialisation.
Where do you envision the space you work in going? What are the problems and what still needs to be done?
I believe that our sector will continue to grow at a rapid rate, most notably, internationally. Governments across the globe, including Australia, China, Japan and several countries in mainland Europe, are placing increasing importance on research commercialisation, viewing technology-transfer as fuel to boost their economies. For example, the Chinese government recently placed technology transfer as one of the key parts of its economic agenda, and we are seeing a growing appetite for university research by companies adopting Open Innovation methodologies to solve internal challenges.
My hope is that technology transfer offices will be benchmarked far less on revenue generated and much more on the amount of research they manage to bring to the world for societal benefit. There has been a historical focus on making money from university research, which is valid because when you commercialise innovative ideas and concepts it benefits society and the economy. On the flip side, a lot of amazing science and technology is being held onto as a result of patent rights obtained by universities, and more often than not the patented subject matter is produced by publicly funded research. I’d like to see a more nuanced system for patents relating to university research where they’re able to have the rights to maintain an element of commercial exploitation but also an incentive to share the knowledge earlier.
What made you leave you previous job and launch your own company? Are there any skills from your background that can translate to skills needed in starting up a business?
Tough question. My academic background is in law, so I’ve done a law degree and post graduate degree in law and bioscience, so I have an academic background related to this sector. My professional background is in multimedia publishing, so it fits quite nicely. My co-founder and good friend Robin is a scientist and he was previously a postdoc at King’s College London, so we bring a nice mix of skills to the business.
I had become a little disillusioned of working in publishing in London and was keen to do a Masters. At the same time, my co-founder and I had the initial idea for IN-PART so the time during my masters enabled me to knock on a few doors around the university and ask questions about whether our idea was a good one while I was studying.
Where did you and your co-founder meet?
We met at school and have been friends since we were around 15. We were both working close by at London Bridge when we got to chatting about the concept for IN-PART.
Do you have one favorite project/contract that you’ve worked on?
IN-PART! I’ve really enjoyed everything from using huge pieces of paper to draw out the web design and user interface, to the new products, software and algorithms we’re developing now. We also have a really exciting, smart and developing team, so watching ourselves and our team grow into this exciting sector has been a highly rewarding experience!
We’ve had a few watershed moments though when the likes of Cambridge, MIT and Columbia came on board to use our system! We thought we must be doing something right.
Why is the collaboration process between universities and industry important?
We believe that university research shouldn’t be dictated by industry as that will only ever lead to incremental change. The step-change innovations are generally produced by allowing academic freedom and we aim to allow them a route to the right industry contacts when they have a new innovation. What companies need to be more aware of is the amount they could (or should!) be utilising the knowledge within universities. Our aim is also to educate so that when companies do have a problem and require an innovative step to overcome it their first port of call is a university to provide a solution to it.
That’s why the second product we’ve just finished Beta testing allows companies to define an innovative solution that they require and find solutions in universities to solve it; not just from the leading academic in that area, but the most commercially minded academic internationally to suit their needs. The Beta test we ran over the last two months has been overwhelmingly positive so we’re really excited about growing this into our current suite of products.
What does the future have in store for IN-PART?
As mentioned, we’ve just finished Beta testing a new product for companies using our system and have completed our first sales. We’re also continuing to internationalise – especially in America – taking advantage of our initial clients at MIT, Columbia, Stanford, UPenn, UCSB and 15 or so others.
Like anyone at our stage as well, we’re also looking to find, hire and retain the right people to grow the team, and generally just get better at everything we do!