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Founding academics are vital to the success of spin-outs in the early years but few quit their posts within the university; instead they act as a consultant, advisor or part-time CTO of the spin-out, gradually passing on everything they know.

This is usually the best thing for the university and the academic; senior academics are rarely great CEOs of the growing business and it can be painful if they outlive their usefulness or competence. Moreover they are often valuable assets to the university for teaching and research. Finally, the company wants to continue to draw on the founding academic’s network, students, access to grants and continued scientific reputation – which has a shelf-life.

However, this entails the academic wearing multiple ‘hats’ and creates the potential for damaging conflict-of-interest situations that can result in serious reputational and material damage. It’s not just actual COI that’s the problem – the appearance of COI can be just as harmful.

In this Masterclass we use a series of gradually more dramatic scenarios to illustrate the main sources of conflict, the problems they can cause and the KTO’s role in minimising, avoiding or managing these conflicts.

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