Intellectual property policy

As a charity, we work to ensure that the results of the research we fund are applied for the public good.

This includes creating an environment that enables and incentivises researchers to develop innovative products and technologies that lead to health improvements. 

Our policy 

1. This policy applies to all forms of IP, including:

  • patents for inventions, such as new drugs or medical devices
  • copyright in software
  • database rights in large datasets
  • rights in designs, for example, for new equipment
  • rights in confidential knowhow.

2. We recognise and value a range of research outputs – including inventions, datasets, software and materials, as well as publications – in assessing researchers’ track records.

The guidance we give to our committees, reviewers and staff emphasises that our funding decisions should take account of the:

  • full and diverse range of outputs that result from research
  • efforts made by researchers to use outputs to deliver health benefits or assist further research.

3. We ask anyone applying for Wellcome funding to consider their approach to managing and sharing anticipated outputs at the research proposal stage.

In cases where these outputs are significant – for example, patentable inventions, large databases, substantial pieces of software, or new research materials, such as antibodies, cell lines or animal models – applicants will need to include an outputs management plan explaining their planned approach. We will review this plan as part of our funding decision.

4. Researchers (and their employers) should take a dynamic approach to outputs management.

Outputs management plans should be reviewed throughout the research life cycle – as IP is created and developed, and as new opportunities for commercialisation arise.

5. Researchers can use part of their existing Wellcome funding to cover the initial costs of protecting patents and registering designs arising from their Wellcome-funded research. After this, their employers are responsible for all additional costs of protecting, maintaining and commercialising that IP throughout its lifetime.

6. If an award holder wants to further develop or commercialise Wellcome-funded IP, it must be in compliance with our funding conditions and consent and revenue and equity sharing policy.

7. Where appropriate, we ask our award holders to make special provisions in their outputs management plans and commercialisation agreements for access in low- and middle-income countries. Please see our equitable access to healthcare interventions statement for more details.

8. Wellcome-funded IP must not be used solely to block further research and development by others, either actively or passively. We expect registered IP to be abandoned if there is no credible plan to commercialise it and if it presents a barrier to other researchers.

9. Funded organisations will need to complete and submit a Consolidated IP and commercialisation report to Wellcome each year, unless other bespoke reporting conditions for commercial entities have been agreed.

10. Where Wellcome supports public engagement activities (rather than research activities), they may also lead to the generation of IP. Examples include:

  • creating public exhibitions
  • publishing books
  • digitising archives
  • commissioning reports, films, broadcasts, games and artworks.

Depending on the scale of Wellcome’s involvement, we will either own the arising IP, so that we can ensure open access to it, or, where the IP is owned by others, exercise sufficient control over it to ensure that our public engagement aims are met.

Our position 

We expect our researchers to manage their research outputs in whatever way will achieve the greatest health benefit. This may involve either:

We do not seek to directly own or co-own IP arising from our research funding. IP created by Wellcome-funded researchers will generally be owned by their employers.

Where an award holder wants to further develop or commercialise Wellcome-funded IP, this must be in compliance with our funding conditions and our policy on consent and revenue and equity sharing.

More information 

Contact us 

Contact our Funding Information Advisers if you have a question about funding.

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