CyberASAP Alumni Insights: “Open and transparent communication between team members and university is key to a successful spin-out”
We speak to Owen Lo for the next edition of the CyberASAP Alumni Series. Owen is the Co-Founder of Edinburgh Napier spin-out company MemCrypt, winners of the Leading Light Innovation Award at the Scottish Cyber Awards 2021.
MemCrypt protects and recovers confidential data from ransomware attacks. Here, in the latest of our Alumni Insights series, we look back on MemCrypt’s commercialisation journey to date.
What were your key motivations for commercialising your research? And how long had you considered doing this before applying to CyberASAP?
MemCrypt originated from Peter McLaren’s (CTO of MemCrypt) PhD thesis titled ‘Investigations into Decrypting Live Secure Traffic in Virtual Environments’ in 2019.
It was recognised early on that Peter’s research, the detection of cryptographic keys, had many possible applications within the cyber security industry. The research and market validation conducted as part of the CyberASAP programme helped us identify that ransomware was a significant threat in cyber security and there was untapped potential in the Ransomware protection market. So we chose to apply MemCrypt’s innovative technology to combat this threat.
What challenges did you think you might face in doing this (personal/professional / IP-related etc)?
As a life-long academic, one of the personal challenges faced was transitioning from an academic role to a commercial one. Fortunately, the industry focused research projects I have conducted at Edinburgh Napier University provided me with ample experience to face this new challenge.
Why did you choose to apply to CyberASAP to progress your project? What other support might you have tried to access?
We had intended to commercialise MemCrypt before joining CyberASAP. Therefore, the programme was the perfect opportunity for the team to learn more about the commercialisation process, and the training proved invaluable in transitioning from an academic project to a commercial one.
Is the current status of your project where you’d hope it would be at this stage?
Yes. Our intention had always been to spin-out from the University and we have been successful in this goal thanks to the hard work of all involved during the commercialisation journey.
What challenges have you faced?
One of the requirements to commercialise a research project is to agree to the terms of the spin-out with the university. Fortunately, Edinburgh Napier University has been very supportive of MemCrypt. The university’s past experience of working with spin-outs (ZoneFox, Symphonic Software, Cyan Forensics) has helped to ensure a smooth transition for MemCrypt from an academic project to a commercial entity.
How would you summarise the impact that CyberASAP has had?
CyberASAP has made a very positive impact on MemCrypt. The training allowed us to articulate our value proposition, identify and validate the market and establish potential channel partners. Furthermore, the esteem of graduating from the CyberASAP programme has increased MemCrypt’s public profile and served to help the project receive additional funding to commercialise our technology.
What were the most valuable aspects of CyberASAP? And the most challenging?
The training, advice and suggested formats provided for the numerous presentation pitches one is expected to carry out for the commercialisation process was very useful. One of the most challenging aspects was articulating our value proposition and USP. The numerous training workshops provided by CyberASAP helped greatly in addressing this challenge.
What are your future support needs and how are you addressing these?
We are currently recruiting additional software developers to help build our product and bring it to market. To address the recruitment needs, we are engaging with recruiting firms and other related channels to identify the best candidates for the role.
How have you changed as a result of gaining commercialisation skills & insights?
I have gained greater confidence when it comes to pitch presentations and also obtained more knowledge in regard to the overall commercialisation process.
What advice would you give fellow academics considering commercialising their research?
Engage with the university as soon as possible to obtain advice and discuss the process of IP ownership, the commercialisation process and other related procedures. Also, consider engaging with industry and other start-ups if possible to get their opinion and advice on commercialisation.
What are the key lessons you’ve learned from the process of commercialisation?
“We had a great experience of CyberASAP with MemCrypt. We are keen to continue supporting the commercialisation of our academic research and see CyberASAP as playing a unique role in enabling this. With another potential cyber spin-out developing, we’d like that team to benefit from CyberASAP too – the programme equips academics with the vital commercialisation knowledge and skills needed to take innovative cyber technologies out in to the market”. Matthew Burdge, Business Development & Relationship Manager,
Research and Innovation Office, Edinburgh Napier University
CyberASAP (Cyber Security Academic Startup Accelerator Programme) is the only pre-seed accelerator programme in the cyber security ecosystem which provides expertise, knowledge and support to convert academic research into commercial products and services.
CyberASAP is funded by the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK and KTN.
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CyberASAP Demo Day – Year 5. Join us on Thursday 17 Feb 2022 and be the first to preview a range of highly promising cyber security products and services from leading UK academic teams. Hear their pitches and assess their offerings in this unique showcase of ready-to-commercialise cyber security innovations. Register here.