Simon Bradbury, head of Life Sciences at Appleyard Lees on, the importance of supporting high-growth SMEs in chemistry and life sciences and securing patent protection

In today’s climate where businesses are under increasing pressure to deliver a return on investment, we decided to launch a growth fund which would help SMEs which have potential to protect their inventions and I’m pleased to report that it has been extended.

The annual fund of £50,000 was established in 2012 to support those who are new to IP or are developing a new business. We have also recently opened a new office at the BioHub at Alderley Park, and are committed to helping new businesses in the life science and pharmaceutical sector.

In the field of life sciences, pharmaceuticals and chemistry, patents are vital as it is unlikely that a new product will be developed without being subject to at least some patent protection. In the case of new therapies for example, there are often many layers of protection. Patents may be obtained for new chemical and biological entities, different formulations, combinations of active ingredients, new uses, dosage regimes, diagnostics, processes for making active ingredients and packaging. Each layer of protection adds greater value to the product which often makes the company more attractive for investment, potential collaboration with larger companies and licensing deals.

Furthermore, patents in the pharmaceutical field are more likely to be litigated than in any other field of technology so it is essential to obtain good, commercially sound advice from a specialist attorney right from the start.

We want to support start-up and emerging companies which operate within these areas by providing financial assistance through the growth fund to help protect inventions. Put simply, the fund provides financial support for organisations that create new inventions and have a clear strategy for commercialising ideas. For example, Appleyard Lees may grant a financial award which represents a contribution towards the cost of drafting and filing a patent application.

So far, the growth fund has proved very successful with a number of recipients benefiting from across various specialist areas. These include innovative companies such as Blueberry Therapeutics who are working on a number of ground-breaking anti-microbial therapies and biologic based anti-inflammatories; Elland-based manufacturers Walker Bros; Shropshire water treatment and recycling company SureWaters; and commercial coffee provider Beanmachines; as well as inventor Gary Abell, who developed a life-saving device aimed at secure medical facilities.

Grants from the Appleyard Lees Growth Fund are awarded on a case-by-case basis to bioscience companies with winning ideas, a track record for innovation and a sound strategic approach. Each application is assessed by partners at the firm and funds will be granted to projects which meet the criteria.

I feel it’s also important to say that Appleyard Lees does not take any equity stake in the companies or in the IP protected. For us, it’s about providing a value service in a dynamic and growing sector.