New PhD thesis shines light on financial performance of university spin-out companies

Peter Jelfs (CIMR PhD student) has successfully defended his PhD thesis which examined the financial performance of university spin-out companies (USOs) from the West Midlands area.

The work constructed a comprehensive database of all USOs founded in the region between 1983 and 2013. Financial performance metrics chosen were company survival, attraction of third party investment, and successful exit for the founders. Comparisons were made between the performance of USOs in the region and previous studies of other UK and foreign universities.

A number of interesting findings were uncovered. Only one USO during the whole period produced a successful financial exit for its founders. Survival rates were much lower than those in other studies, which was ascribed to the existence of ‘twilight’ USOs, which have not formally failed but are undertaking little activity. External investment varied widely between university, but was at levels much lower than elite research universities in the UK and US. In addition, a wide range of behaviours was noted across the different universities within the region in regard to creation and maintenance of their USOs.

The findings have implications for USO management team, government policy makers and potential external investors.The next stage will be to publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal, to add to a paper already published during the research.

Peter was supported by his supervisors Professor Helen Lawton Smith and Dr Pierre Nadeau throughout.