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The Spinoff Prize

The Spinoff Prize has been established by Nature Research in partnership with Merck to showcase and celebrate global excellence in the commercialisation of research through the creation of spinoff companies.

Guidelines for applicants
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Q: Why is approval required in order to submit an application? 

This is to confirm that the spinoff is eligible to apply i.e. was established to commercialise research conducted at a university or research institute and was formed on or after 30th November 2016.

Q: What do I need to do in order to evidence the approval? 

In the application form you will be asked to provide the contact details for a senior member of the Technology Transfer Office or equivalent, or if no such office exists, a senior office holder from the institution within the university or research institute from which the underpinning research originated. They will be contacted by email to confirm their endorsement of the application.

Q: Why have you restricted entries to specific market sectors?

As this is the inaugural year of The Spinoff Prize, we are unable to predict the number of applicants. Thus, we have taken the decision to select specific sector categories with a view to broadening this in future.

Q: What happens if the spinoff is eligible for more than one sector category?

Please select what you perceive to be the  most relevant category.

Q: I want to nominate a spinoff. What do I need to do?

If you are a senior member of the Technology Transfer Office or equivalent, or if no such office exists, a senior office holder, you can contact the spinoff to make them aware of the award programme and direct them to the application form. They will need to indicate in the form that you approve their application and we recommend you review their application.

Q: Does the applicant need to be an employee of the spinoff?

Yes.  Any applicant will need approval from the relevant authorised individual within the spinoff to submit an application.

Q: What exactly do you mean by a spinoff? Are spinouts and startups also eligible? 

We appreciate that different terminology is used in different countries to describe companies that are created involving university/research institute staff and students. We define a spinoff as a company that has been formed specifically to commercialise the outputs generated from research conducted at a university or research institute. In the application you will have to clearly demonstrate how the underpinning research led to findings which are subsequently being commercialised. Companies that have been formed by staff or students based on ideas that are not as a result of the specific outputs of research are not eligible. Corporate spinoffs are also not eligible.

Q: Must the spinoff already have launched a product or service?

No. Some spinoffs might have achieved this, but we expect that many will still be in development. The spinoff must have been registered as a separate legal entity on or after 30th November 2016.

Q: Does it matter who owned/owns the intellectual property originating from the underpinning research?

No. In some countries the university/research institution will own the intellectual property, in others it will be the inventors of the intellectual property. The key criterion is that the research was conducted within a university or research institute and a company was formed in order to commercially exploit the research outputs and any associated intellectual property.

Q: Does the underpinning research have to be 100% funded by government/public funds?

No. Any type of research funding could have supported the research including that from government, charities and the private sector.

Q: When can I apply?

Applications open on 30th November 2019 and close on 28th February 2020 (23:59 GMT).

Q: Will you accept applications after the deadline?

No. We are unable to accept late applications. The application portal will close and will not accept any applications after 28th February 2020 (23:59 GMT).

Q. Will I receive any feedback on my application?

Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual feedback on applications.

Q. Can I write more than the word limits? 

No. The application portal restricts the length of the answer to the word limit and cannot be extended.

Q: When will I know if my application has been selected? 

Firstly, we will select a set of spinoffs that we call the longlist. The longlist will be profiled in a special report published in Nature. Longlisted applicants will be informed under embargo in April 2020 and announced by early July 2020. In addition, a smaller number of spinoffs, called the shortlist, will also be profiled in Nature and will be invited to take part in the slam competition at the Curious Future Insight Conference during 13th-15th July 2020 in Darmstadt, Germany, where they will compete for the category prize and an overall prize. Shortlisted applicants will be informed under embargo in April 2020 and announced by early July 2020. 

Q: What exactly is the slam competition? 

This is a competitive event where representatives of the shortlisted spinoffs will present to a panel of judges and answer questions. The panel will then select a winner in each category and the overall winner.

Q: Will travel and accommodation costs be reimbursed for shortlisted candidates attending the slam competition?

Nature Research will reimburse reasonable travel expenses of up to Euro 1250.

Q: Will the competition organisers help shortlisted candidates secure any necessary visas or travel documentation to attend the competition?

Shortlisted candidates will be responsible for securing the necessary travel documentation including visas. We will provide a letter of invitation to attend the slam competition.

Q: What happens if for whatever reason I am unable to travel to the slam competition?

If the applicant is shortlisted but is no longer able to attend, a representative of the spinoff may attend instead. They can either be an employee of the spinoff, a member of the Board of Directors, a member of an Advisory Board, or a member of the university or research institutes Technology Transfer Office or equivalent.

Q: Are there any restrictions on what the prize money can be used for?

The prize money must be transferred to a bank account in the legal name of the spinoff. There are no further stipulations on the use of the funds.

Q: Do I have to report on what the prize money was used for?

No. However, we may contact all longlisted and shortlisted spinoffs and the category winners after the competition in order to find out what progress the spinoffs have made and what impact participating in the competition has had.

Q: Who can I contact for more information?

Please don’t hesitate to contact us at if you require any further information.