EU aid for good ideas broker

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THE SUCCESS of a brokerage with a difference has been recognised by the European Union.

The Technology Broker, based in Cambridge, has been awarded an extension of 260,000 ecus (more than pounds 200,000) to its contract with the EU to put owners of technological developments in touch with businesses that can exploit them commercially.

Annie Brooking, managing director, established the firm in 1990, after six years in California's Silicon Valley.

Watching local venture capitalists at work there, Ms Brooking began to notice a pattern in the way fledgling start- ups prospered. To be successful, firms needed to have three things in place: a good idea to exploit, a good management team to do the exploiting, and propitious timing. Take away the management and the timing, and the good idea invariably sank.

Was there an alternative? she wondered. To find out, she returned to the UK and set up The Technology Broker. Her vision was inspired by City dealing-rooms, where risks can be hedged and swapped. Instead of exploiting their own technologies, companies and developers can sell their know-how to businesses that have the required management skills and can afford to nurture an idea until the moment is right.

Using 12 scientists, including several from Cambridge University, the firm undertakes computer-based searches for companies likely to be interested in commercially exploiting technologies on its books.

Within two days, Ms Brooking reckons, the firm can contact every party in Europe that might be interested, in return for an initial fee and a percentage of any resulting licensing deal. The EU was an early convert to the idea, and The Technology Broker won the contract to operate the English 'Relay Centre' - one of 26 funded by the EU. Qualifying clients - including universities, research centres and companies - receive services free.

The English Relay Centre is the only one operated by a private company, Ms Brooking says. New funding will allow extra attention to technologies developed in south-west and northern Britain.

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