New social enterprise offers affordable tech valuation tool to help innovators and startups access funding

A social enterprise created from ODID research has developed an affordable tool that can be used by international organisations, governments, banks, and private investors to determine the value of new technologies with great accuracy, overcoming one of the key barriers that prevents innovative ideas translating into viable products.

As the world confronts multiple challenges such as COVID and climate change, new technologies to help address them have never been more necessary. But new ideas often fall victim to what has been called the innovation “valley of death” – the set of barriers that prevents them crossing over from theory into reality.

One of the key factors preventing this is the simple fact that it is hard to work out what completely new technologies are worth; it is expensive, there is limited expertise and all existing techniques have obvious drawbacks. Current methods may be subject to assumptions about future income, rely on subjective assessments, be based on past investments that do not reflect the value of creativity and novelty, or be purely theoretical and so unusable in practice. They thus tend to have poor predictive power. All this inhibits the investment needed to get innovations off the ground.

The new spinout, OxValue.AI, offers a new approach which seeks to make technology pricing objective, affordable and accessible to all those who need it. The new enterprise aims in particular to facilitate the dissemination of technologies to countries in the Global South.

OxValue.AI is based on the Valuation of Early-Stage Technology (VEST) Tool, developed by Professor Xiaolan Fu of the Technology and Management Centre for Development (TMCD) at ODID.

The tool makes use of an algorithm that leverages big data, econometrics and machine learning techniques to estimate empirically the monetary value of a patented invention or a startup. The tool derives from research carried out at the TMCD in which researchers created a database that matched all UK startups in the previous ten years with records of patents granted in the relevant technology fields during the same time period, as well as incorporating other market and technology readiness data. The model developed from this was able to explain around 85% of the variations in the value of technologies owned by the start-ups in the database. Its predictive power was even stronger for newer startups.

The tool is likely to be of use for international organisations involved in technology transfer such as the United Nations, European Union and World Bank to aid in valuing and budgeting technology investments and assistance; for national governments to improve GDP accounting; for global corporations for mergers and acquisitions; and for financial services institutions for evaluating funding.

OxValue.AI was launched at an online event on 25 June, which attracted an online audience of more than 15,000 people. Speaking at the event, Lord Timothy Clement Jones, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Artificial Intelligence, said: “Underpinning this method is a pioneering technology evaluation tool. It is clearly a useful and new approach to the appraisal of technology and an important guide for decision-making, technology investment, transfer and commercialisation.”

Mark Logan MP, member of the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Select Committee, said the new tool will “boost international innovation collaboration. We are on an edge of something very exciting”.

OxValue.AI’s founding members are Professor Fu (Chair of the Board), Professor Diego Sánchez-Ancochea, ODID Head of Department, (Board Member), and Professor Yu Xiong, Associate Dean International at the University of Surrey, (Managing Director).

Professor Fu is Professor of Technology and International Development at ODID. She is a member of the Governing Council of the UN's Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries and was previously a member of the ten-member High Level Advisory Group of the UN’s Technology Facilitation Mechanism.

Find out more about OxValue.AI