Founders Choice

The academic community at Imperial College London has been developing its world-leading research into spinout companies for more than two decades, with over 150 spinouts created which between them have raised hundreds of millions of pounds. During this time, individual researchers have developed business skills, created high quality networks, and gained experience in management of high technology businesses. Imperial’s entrepreneurial culture means that there are a number of second- and third-time company founders who have the experience to take on a great deal of the effort and responsibility required to build a new company.

Founders Choice® is an 18-month pilot programme launched in August 2017 to address this group at Imperial. In a first for any UK university, the programme gives Founders two routes to choose between when founding a spinout company.

These choices – Founder Driven or Jointly Driven – impact on the level of founding equity received by founders, the level of support they receive from Imperial Innovations and the level of responsibility for spinout development they must take on.

The Founder Driven route, which is similar to the process used by a number of successful US technology transfer offices, offers academics a much greater share of founding equity in their spinouts – up to 95%. Founders who choose this route will receive a basic level of support from Imperial Innovations, including the provision of training, template legal documents and access to professional advisers. Imperial Innovations will also maintain any patents on the founding technology to an agreed level and for a set period.

For its part, Imperial Innovations will receive a smaller initial equity share protected by a non-dilution clause up to a pre-agreed level of investment. These details are negotiated based on the nature of the company – quick-to-revenue software companies which are likely to require lower investment will have a lower non-dilute threshold than, say, pharma businesses.

The Jointly Driven route maintains the current service level and equity arrangements for Imperial spinouts – founders will receive an enhanced support package from Imperial Innovations but receive a smaller share of the initial equity (with negotiations beginning at 50%).

This dual-route approach is designed to stimulate the creation of new spinouts through recognising the knowledge and expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship that has developed among academics at Imperial.

Since its launch, Imperial Innovations has entered into discussions around the formation of nine new spinouts under the Founder Driven route of Founders Choice®. The programme was rolled out through departmental meetings across the College, and the reception so far has been positive. Experienced academic entrepreneurs recognise the enhanced responsibility and freedom that the Founder Driven route gives them. Professor Andrew Livingston, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Imperial, who previously established Membrane Extraction Technologies, a chemicals separation company which sold to Evonik Industries AG in 2010, said:

“The Founders Choice® initiative is an exciting opportunity for people like myself who have already successfully created and exited a spinout with the support of Imperial in the past.  The Founder driven route recognises the skills and contacts I gained from my previous entrepreneurial experience as I plan to launch and progress my next spinout.”


Note: In October 2017, Imperial Innovations and its parent company, Touchstone Innovations plc, were acquired by IP Group plc.  This combination creates a £1.5 billion FTSE 250-listed patient capital investor.  IP Group and its subsidiaries between them invested in 40 spinout companies during 2016 – more than any other investor.


For further information, contact:

Gavin Reed

Marketing Manager

Imperial Innovations

+44 (0)20 3053 8820


Posted on Monday, 18 June 2018 under University news