Reporter 446, 7 February 2000
The pioneering £20m Forward Innovation Fund, set up in December, has made University spin-off company Virtual Working Systems (VWS) its first beneficiary. In exchange for a majority holding, the Forward Group is to provide finance management to develop VWS as a commercial enterprise, allowing its directors to concentrate on research.
Virtual Working Systems has pole position in a new and exciting market, providing companies and organisations with computer software allowing them to operate in the business domain of the future - the virtual workplace.
The speed with which VWS can design and test software solutions for clients has made the company a market leader. Years of University research into computer-based systems has produced products and services that are internationally recognised and commercially exploitable.
"This is thrilling news," said Professor of Virtual Working Environments and VWS managing director Christine Leigh. "It will enable the company to offer significantly better solutions to the management of corporate and institutional knowledge resources and support for their innovation and education processes".
Forward Group chief executive Ray Chamberlain said: "This is the first of many partnerships we intend to make in helping commercialise University ‘know-how’. We are certain the success of VWS will make significant financial returns both for the entrepreneurs, the University and ourselves."
VWS Ltd has grown from the success of the University Virtual Science Park (VSP). The VWS team were architects of the VSP and now offer similar software to companies, enabling them to improve their own business to business communications.
The Forward Innovation Fund was launched in December 1999 by Forward Group chief executive Ray Chamberlain and University Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Wilson.
The joint venture, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, provides investment, strategic back-up, management and support services to help University researchers take their inventions into the marketplace.
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