After the spinout

Sometimes for example it makes sense for both parties to maintain a board level relationship, either as a non-exec or as an observer.

During the process of spinning out, the key players are usually immersed in the process.  The TTO often acts as the lynchpin that orchestrates interaction of the spinout founders and executive team with a wide range of actors.  The process intensifies when preferred investors have been identified and the respective parties enter into heads of terms.  From inception to completion of the spinout, the TTO develops deep relationships with all the key players, often coaching and coaxing them through issues and decisions.

In the Oxford model, the TTO plays the role of both the licensor and the lynchpin. 

We used to take a step back from spinouts post-launch, with our principal contact points revolving around the licence and IP management.  Management of the university shareholding and decisions relating to the future of the company would then pass to another group at Oxford. 

Today, our model has evolved to include taking board observer or non-exec director roles.  This enables the spinout to transition from the TTO without an abrupt change in its contact points, while providing continued support from the TTO contact who has helped shape the business strategy and the investment deal.

This approach - driven by feedback from our companies - enables continuity of relationship.  It also enables our staff to understand the challenges of enacting business models they have helped shape and implementing licence deals they have structured.  This knowledge enables us to be more effective for future spinouts.

These advantages need to be balanced against the impact on time as ongoing supportive roles for spinouts are on top of the day job.  There are also potential conflicts of interest that may arise from the TTO contact holding a board position and managing the licence relationship.  In Oxford, we address this by splitting those two roles once the spinout has launched.


Carolyn Porter, Deputy Head of Technology Transfer at Oxford University Innovation, is a director of three spinout companies - OxStem, Oxford Endovascular, and Xerion  - and also holds an observer role on a further spinout iOx.  In her ongoing roles she has helped companies navigate further interactions with the University, advised on IP and broader company strategy, and facilitated introductions to advisors, investors and potential partners that are attracted to the broader Oxford ecosystem.

Carolyn has worked in big biotech (Chiron) and big pharma (Novartis) as well as in an advisory role in Ernst & Young’s corporate finance team.  Since joining OUI, Carolyn has led or mentored the formation of 14 companies.

For more information:

Dr Carolyn Porter



Posted on Tuesday, 20 December 2016 under advisory