Just ahead of the funding competition for CyberASAP 2022/23 opening (open 7 Feb to 2 March 2022), Professor David Chadwick, talks us through some of the challenges in commercialising research.

What were your key motivations for commercialising your research?

Commercialisation was never an end goal of my academic work. But when I got to 65 (I was doing part-time work and research) the opportunity arose to do CyberASAP. The majority of people I was working with at that time were companies and I felt confident that there were commercial opportunities for Verifiable Credentials.

What challenges did you think the commercialisation process would present?

Building the system in such a tight time frame and with a limited budget and resources was a significant worry. I asked one of my PhD students to help build the Proof of Concept we developed during CyberASAP over the holidays – he’s now the CTO of the company.

I also anticipated that the admin involved with the University would be a slow and laborious process, so I tried to make as much progress as possible on my own before engaging with them. 

Another challenge I came across was getting R&D income. We applied for and got a number of grants – including from Innovate UK – which was very helpful in the development of the project. 

And lastly, of course, was the securing of customers which is the number one challenge for any new company with a brand new product. Our collaboration (and subsequent acquisition by) Crossword CyberSecurity has helped mitigate this – with their experience we are able to put in credible bids to large organisations, for example, the NHS.

Is the current status of your project (or other project started as a direct or indirect result of CyberASAP) where you’d hope it would be at this stage?

At the moment we’re ahead of where we’d have hoped to be. We’ve just submitted two proposals to the NHS which we couldn’t have done without Crossword CyberSecurity – and of course, they couldn’t have done without us, so it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. 

What challenges lie ahead?

I think the challenges ahead are much bigger than the initial challenges of commercialisation. Winning a commercial contract requires successful delivery – whereas with a research grant, you can always fail, and that’s acceptable. 

How would you summarise the impact of CyberASAP on you?

If I hadn’t been on CyberASAP I would be retired and drawing my pension – so it’s been massively beneficial in more ways than one. 

The University has also benefited, as I stayed on longer than I would otherwise have done.  Also, the university received the grant money from CyberASAP; and benefited from the equity share when Verifiable Credentials was acquired. 

What were the most valuable aspects of CyberASAP? And the most challenging?

The most valuable aspect of CyberASAP is that it exists! And that I did it!

Everything about the programme is valuable, especially the concept of the Value Proposition which I found the most enlightening as it meant I could look at my research from a completely different perspective. 

It was also invaluable to get a grant to build the Proof of Concept (although more time and budget would have been useful).

KTN Comment

“Great to see such a successful outcome for one of our Alumni in a very short period of time. This not only demonstrates the quality of the product and the proposition, but also shows how important a role these early-stage companies can play in the ecosystem – they’re smart and agile enough to pivot and respond to changing market needs and VCL’s work with Covid-19 certificates is a real case in point” – Emma Fadlon, Co-Director, CyberASAP, Innovate UK KTN.

 

CyberASAP provides comprehensive commercialisation support to academic teams in cyber. Want to apply to participate? If you’re an academic with a cyber idea and are interested in developing its commercial potential, register here for more information. The funding competition for CyberASAP 2022/2023 opens on 7 Feb and closes on 2 March. More details are here where you will also find a link to attend a Briefing about the competition on 8 February.

The current CyberASAP cohort will be presenting their pitches and demonstrating their Proof of Concepts at the CyberASAP Demo Day on February 17th. Interested in attending? Find out more and register here. 

If you’d like to support the 2022/23 programme in any way, just provide your details here.

CyberASAP is funded by the UK Government Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK and Innovate UK KTN.

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