Company factfile

  • Created by: Non-academic team from the Faculty of Life Sciences: Simon Merrywest, Louise Barnes, Mark Hagon, Davina Whitnall, Lauren Summers and George Jeffries
  • Application: Higher Education: Online software package for recording, monitoring and reporting on student progression and skills training activity
  • Licensed to: various Higher Education Institutes from mid 2010
  • IP: Copyright

“Initial feedback is incredibly positive. We expect the system to make monitoring student progression much smoother and more efficient.”

The Progress Platform Team From L-R: Davina Whitnall, Simon Merrywest, Lauren Summers and George Jeffries

About Progress Platform

ProgressPlatform™ is an online system for recording, monitoring and reporting on student progression and skills training activity and combines bespoke progression areas and advanced reporting features to create an innovative and interactive system for tracking student progression throughout their studies.

The transparent and easy to use system aids compliance with the Points Based Immigration system and offers the potential to increase submission/completion rates. Its range of uses extends beyond just postgraduate students as undergraduate, CPD, other taught students and research staff can also benefit from the system’s flexibility.

The team have now implemented the system at the Institute of Cancer Research, City University, London.

Justin Macklin, Assistant Director of Academic Services (Systems), Institute of Cancer Research commented: “We’ve just launched ProgressPlatform at the Institute of Cancer Research. Initial feedback is incredibly positive! All users have found the system easy to use and we expect it to make monitoring student progression much smoother and more efficient.”

We met up with one of the creators, Dr Simon Merrywest, to find out more about his experiences of the licensing process…


How was the idea of ProgressPlatform™ conceived and developed into the current product?

ProgressPlatform™ evolved from a system called eProg developed by the Faculty of Life Sciences from 2005. eProg provides a robust and transparent solution for monitoring and recording research student progression and development, which are now essential requirements of many funders . eProg is now in use across The University of Manchester and in 2010 we took the decision to make it available commercially.


How did you find out if there was a need for this type of system in other institutions?

We were fortunate to have access to an online community of postgraduate administrators and managers. We sent them all a questionnaire as part of our initial market research and received such positive feedback that we decided to move ahead with commercialising it. We also had much anecdotal evidence from academic colleagues who had given seminars or acted as examiners elsewhere that there was likely to be a demand.


How have you and your Faculty benefited from licensing the ProgressPlatform™ software?

Aside from being a source of discretionary income, this project has provided the skills, confidence and knowledge to better scope other potential ideas that the Faculty might
exploit. This has included several new courses and the establishment of a new surgical skills facility which will open in September 2012.


What support did you receive from the University during the commercialisation and licensing process?

UMIP licensing manager, Dr Emma Woods, really looked after us. UMIP were an invaluable source of knowledge, advice and encouragement as we took the step from an in-house to a commercial product. They undertook an initial due diligence exercise and then supported all of the contractual and legal side of the operation.


What have you learned during this process?

Whilst the culture and ways of working in most universities is to a large extent the same (compared to working in a company), the service we are providing is a commercial
one and the customer still quite rightly expects the service to be delivered on that basis. That said, coming from one university and selling to another has definitely been
an advantage.


Was there anything which ‘surprised’ you?

The difficulty of establishing a pricing model was a surprise. As this is a fairly unique product, there were few existing market forces to guide the price that we might charge. Fortunately, colleagues in Finance were able to help us develop a strong pricing model which we have used ever since.


Do you have any advice for colleagues considering embarking on the route to commercialisation?

Do your research and know your customer. The survey we undertook of potential customers was invaluable. It cost nothing to do, but demonstrated that there was definitely a market for our product. Even then, we research each potential customer in great detail, trying to assess the likely benefits of the system to them and how it will fit with existing systems.


What does the future hold for ProgressPlatform™?

ProgressPlatform™ is not a standalone innovation, so as well as trying to increase our customer base, we will be looking to more functionality and other related products available.

“Do your research and know your customer. The survey we undertook of potential customers was invaluable.”