17th October 2022
We chat with Du Liu from the University of Oxford about her venture OxValue.AI, which offers a new approach to technology valuation. This project is part of the Aspect Research Commercialisation (ARC) Accelerator 2022 Cohort.
Q: What is your academic background and what are you currently working on?
I’m a Research Officer at the University of Oxford and my research focuses on corporate finance and innovation, with a special focus on patent analysis. I’m currently working on a project called “Valuation of Medical Invention”, led by Professor Xiaolan Fu at the University of Oxford. This project aims to provide an analytical valuation framework for startups that produce drugs, based on their patents, by taking into account the high risk and market competition in the pharmaceutical industry. This is also the research basis of our venture.
Q: How did you come up with your venture idea? Why did you decide to focus on this specific idea?
We noticed that for the valuation of technology, the market is really huge but methodologies are quite limited. In practice, the practitioners are struggling to find the appropriate methods for valuating the startups, especially in the biopharmaceutical industries and other related technology-intensive industries.
To fill this gap, Professor Xiaolan Fu and her team started research into technology valuation in 2016. Rather than relying on traditional methods of valuation, which have either poor predictive power or require unavailable data, such as revenue data and financial data, we have proposed a framework focusing on novelty, market size, the presence of complementary technologies, potential risks in its development, and the characteristics of the team that builds and commercialises it to help determine the valuation.
The project team started from an in-depth study of the information and telecommunication industry, and has developed a theoretical and empirical framework for a valuation tool. In May 2021, I joined the project and focused on developing a valuation tool for biopharmaceutical technology. Based on a previous framework, I viewed an AI-powered method, which employs a wide range of approaches or algorithms in machine learning to increase the predictive power.
I have seen the urgent need and the widespread application for this research, especially in the biopharmaceutical industry, so I’m delighted to be part of the team and contribute to our goal of providing an effective tool to facilitate technology transfer, financing and development.
Q: What does your venture aim to achieve and how does it tackle the issue?
We aim to provide an objective, accessible, accurate and affordable technology valuation tool to overcome the limitations of the valuation based on existing methods. In addition, we offer transparency in different aspects of technology value and a tool that is independent from past financial data, so it is suitable for startups, especially for pre-revenue startups.
Q: How is the ARC Accelerator supporting you in bringing your venture to life?
ARC has provided a lot of professional commercialisation training and advice, including market validation, market research and other related workshops. I have developed the entrepreneurship skills to analyse and explore the market effectively and professionally.
I also benefit from the resource support and network resources that ARC provides. This has allowed the team to identify the optimal strategy for commercialisation and build connections with industry experts through the process of market validation, which has been really helpful.
Q: What has been the most useful part of the ARC programme so far?
As I have said before, I think the professional workshops and especially the checkpoint feedback session provided by the ARC programme were really useful, because I have learned how to build my venture in a systematic way. I also like how ARC encourages participants to network with each other, so that we can receive support not only from our home university, but also from external universities.
Q: What have you learned through the programme that you will bring back to your work or research?
First of all, I have learned how to think about starting a business from a research project. This is really useful, not only for my current project, but also for my future research. This is also a very valuable practical experience for me, because management and innovation are topics of interest in my research, so this is helpful for my academic research as well.
Q: What stage are you at with your venture right now?
The spinout company was approved by the University in March 2022, and we have started to do real business already.
Photo credit: Ray Harrington via Unsplash