Reporter 410, 17 November 1997

GMAP strikes deal with American company

The University has disposed of its interests in GMAP, one of Britain’s most successful university companies.

A deal with the American company R L Polk & Co was agreed at a meeting of Council earlier this month.

The agreement effectively splits GMAP into two new companies. Its automotive business, including work with Ford and Toyota, will be developed by the Polk Group. A new company, GMAP Ltd, will trade independently in the retail, financial services, telecoms, leisure and utility markets.

In the light of independent professional advice, Council was satisfied that the deal – the terms of which remain commercially confidential at the request of Polk – was in the best interests of the University.

Council Chairman and Pro-Chancellor, Colonel Alan Roberts, said: “The success story of GMAP is a credit to the staff of the company and the University. It illustrates the practical value which academic research can have and it is an outstanding example of the benefit which universities, individual academic inventors and society at large can gain from the effective transfer of intellectual property into the market-place.”

GMAP Ltd is the brainchild of Professors Alan Wilson, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, and Martin Clarke, springing from their academic research on human geographical modelling in the School of Geography in the 1970s.

They were pioneers in the field of human geographical modelling techniques, developing computer models of cities, their populations and their economies which showed the interactions between where people live, where they work, where they shop and what they buy.

Recognising the commercial application of their research, Professors Clarke and Wilson began to offer consultancy services to businesses in the 1980s; GMAP itself was incorporated in 1990. As is standard University practice, the Company was established with the University as the majority shareholder, and the two inventors as minority shareholders. Martin Clarke has been chief executive of GMAP since its inception.

GMAP works with a wide range of blue-chip clients, including the Ford Motor Company, Toyota, Halifax plc, W H Smith, BP, Mobil, Barclays Bank, Midland Bank and Smith Kline Beecham. Turnover has risen from £1m in 1990 to about £5m in 1996-97. GMAP’s 110 staff will be split between the two new companies.

Founded in 1870, Polk is the oldest curator of automobile records in the United States. The company, which is privately-held, launched its motor statistical operations in 1922 when the first car registration reports were published.

GMAP Chief Executive Martin Clarke said: “This deal makes both strategic and commercial sense for the clients, staff and shareholders of GMAP. The two new companies will continue to work closely together, sharing premises and joint product development. I will be working for both to ensure that the maximum value is added for the new shareholders and to demonstrate our commitment to all of our valued clients. The deal is another milestone in GMAP’s evolution, and we look forward to many further successes in the future.”

Mike Williams, Managing Director of Polk Ltd and Senior Vice-President of International Operations for R L Polk & Co, said: “We have long admired the capabilities of the staff and systems at GMAP. This deal is a significant step in realising our vision of being the leading supplier of market information and analysis systems for the world’s automotive industries.”

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