Report launched into UK's IP-backed finance landscape

Today in London, the launch of a UN agency report by the UK’s Minister for AI and IP, Viscount Camrose, alongside WIPO Director General Daren Tang, highlighted a burgeoning interest among UK banks in Intellectual Property (IP) backed lending.

The report identifies emerging IP-backed financial products, like those recently introduced by NatWest and HSBC UK, indicating a shift towards innovative financing solutions in the UK aimed at supporting business growth and scalability. This development aligns with previous findings suggesting that companies holding registered IP are potentially more attractive lending candidates.

This initiative, a collaborative effort between WIPO and the IPO, represents a significant milestone in WIPO’s agenda to enhance global policy and industry understanding of IP finance's feasibility and methodologies. The UK-specific findings contribute to an expanding dataset elucidating both the potential benefits and obstacles of incorporating IP finance more fully into the financial mainstream.

Significantly, industries intensive in IP contribute to over a quarter of the UK’s economic output, amounting to approximately £300 billion annually. Intangible assets, which are often safeguarded by IP, could constitute about 70-80% of a firm's value, underscoring the critical role of IP in the modern economy.

The report recognises that the UK meets the ‘essential preconditions’ for IP-backed finance to work at scale: a strong IP regime, pool of innovative firms, and a vibrant financial sector. While these are positive developments, the report notes there is much further to go to move IP financing from the margins to the mainstream. 

The report highlights several challenges to firms using IP to raise growth funding, including low levels of awareness among financiers and industry, a lack of secondary markets for IP assets, confidence in IP valuation, and limited visibility of IP in business reporting. 

At today’s event, the UK’s Minister for AI and IP, Viscount Camrose, also announced that the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) will act to raise the profile of IP financing and identify avenues to improve investment into IP-intensive firms by:  

  • Establishing an advisory working group to bring together experts from the financial sector, IP profession, and academia to help shape policy in this globally developing area of business finance. 
  • Bringing together, in an annual report, a set of regular and consistent metrics to improve market insight into using IP to access equity and debt finance. 
  • Looking into avenues to improve the process of recording charges against registered IP before the IPO. 

These next steps will support the IPO’s ongoing policy work on IP finance. This activity will complement the IPO’s wider interventions to help businesses better identify, manage, and protect their IP. 

Viscount Camrose, Minister for AI and Intellectual Property said: “This report is further evidence of the UK’s commitment to supporting business to grow and scale however we can, tapping into their unrivalled IP innovations to help them scale and grow. Accessing the right finance at the right time is critical for firms looking to expand, and companies can now leverage their individual intellectual properties to help unlock new opportunities and drive growth.

“The government’s new working group will also help to drive this effort forward, ensuring the UK establishes itself as the main destination for businesses who are looking for new ways to drive growth.”

 Daren Tang, Director General of WIPO said: “Intellectual property is not just a legal right or a business catalyst, but also a financial asset. IP financing will unlock new paths for enterprises to grow, but still feels unfamiliar to many key stakeholders. It is therefore time for us to move this conversation beyond IP specialists and experts to get those in finance, investment, accountancy and valuation involved in moving this piece forward together. IP offices are no longer just IP registries but important builders of a country’s innovation ecosystem and will play a central role as catalysts for IP finance. 

“This is why I strongly welcome the UKIPO’s firm commitment to work with WIPO and key stakeholders within the UK and internationally to transform IP financing from exotic to mainstream.”

Neil Bellamy, Head of Tech Media & Telecom, NatWest Group said: “Unlocking value from intellectual property (IP) and intangible assets can be a key enabler for the UK economy.  Helping firms to scale, create high value jobs and boost UK productivity. IP lending offers an opportunity to enable innovative firms on their growth journey.  I welcome the Government's commitment to improve insight into this emerging funding option and help shift IP lending into the mainstream.”

Roland Emmans, Head of UK Tech Sector and Growth Lending, HSBC UK said: “HSBC UK works with some of the country’s most innovative and disruptive firms and have looked at their Intellectual Property (IP) as a key part of our lending analysis for some years now. We have a long history of creating and developing world leading ideas into valuable IP in the UK, and its importance to the economy has been growing steadily. We’re delighted to see the spotlight shone on the IP financing opportunity from the WIPO report as it will deliver further impetus to accelerate this growth.”

Matt Dixon, President of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) said: “High growth businesses may often own few tangible assets, but can be rich in IP and intangible assets. These businesses can find it difficult to use their traditional assets as collateral to secure growth funding,  leading to a potentially sizeable funding gap for fast-growing, but asset light, businesses. IP backed lending could play an important role in addressing this gap.

“It is widely recognised that intellectual property represents a significant part of the value of businesses across all sectors of the economy, and these developments are a great step toward helping unlock the potential of innovative SMEs in key industries.  We are delighted to see that UK banks are beginning to engage on IP-backed lending, and welcome the plans announced by the IPO today to help drive action in this emerging area.”