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Up to date on: 3.3.2008
Provided by: European Business Network
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Case Study: Exilica Ltd, a Coventry University Spin-out Company  built upon patenting and incubation support provided by Coventry University Enterprises (CUE) Ltd and Coventry BIC.

Exilica Ltd was registered in May 2005 in order to commercially exploit technology developed by Dr Daniel Lynch from the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences at Coventry University. Daniel had discovered, by serendipity, that 500 nanometre diameter silica shells could be used to contain chemicals and release them over very long periods of time. The invention was made 7 years ago, after 5 years of intensive research to establish what types of elements and compounds could be encapsulated the University filed for a UK patent to cover the invention. Since then the patent has been filed internationally and further patents have been taken out to cover absorbent beads and fluorescent dyes. It was only after filing for the patent that Daniel could publish his results. Following this leading article industry responded in characteristically cautious fashion, but persistence and a very clear vision for the product’s potential led to 9 development contracts with multi-national companies.

What Daniel had characterised was a platform technology which could be tailored to many industrial needs, from medicines to perfumes Application areas cover the controlled release of chemicals from within the tiny silica shells, for instance, nutrients are encapsulated and released for maintaining bacterial colonies used in sustainable urban drainage systems over several years. The bacterial colonies exist underground to digest pollutants and oils, using the shells means that no further intervention is needed. Other uses cover the slow release of fragrances and perfumes, either through unaided release or following a chemical trigger which breaks the polymer coatings around the shells.  A full list of application areas below shows why the University was keen to start a spin-out company and not just licence the technology directly. It was good business sense to grow the company as a contract research provider, with the aim to licence production of the shells and beads for specific customer applications. Within the first year the company had appointed an excellent board of Directors who have been supporting Daniel in raising early stage finance.

In 2005 Daniel took advantage of the West Midlands Medici Fellowship initiative to buy out some of his teaching time to concentrate on Exilica’s growth, following this he then used the Enterprise Fellowship Scheme for office space and mentoring the business. The training packages offered by both these schemes covered all aspects of business competency, often quoted as a ‘mini MBA’ in scope. Exilica used the design4advantage programme run by CUE Ltd to establish and develop  the company logo and brand identity which was also  fully funded by the Regional Development Agency Advantage West Midlands.

Exilica used all the support offered by Coventry University in starting a company, and also received grants worth £45,000 over this period. Daniel realises that this is a crucial time for Exilica, they have been recognised as one of the regions most exciting rapid growth potential start-ups, it now remains to deliver that potential. A good first step was the short listing of Exilica in the THES best business initiative of the year.

Daniel remained a senior lecturer within the Faculty until taking up full time employment as Technical Director in October 2007, and Exilica recruited their first full time employee in the same year, coinciding with an equity investment of £150,000 from a private company which pays for laboratory space and will enable them to sign their first licence agreement.

Coventry University Enterprises Ltd is a Business and Innovation Centre and member of EBN.

To know more about this success story, please contact Brian More, IP Specialist at CUE Ltd at b.more@coventry.ac.uk or Kathryn Stewart, Programmes Manager for Coventry BIC at k.stewart(at)coventry.ac.uk

 

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