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With Salesforce, we can bring people together to turn intellectual property into pounds. - Sarah Scace, Marketing and Communications Manager, Edinburgh Research and Innovation

In 2014, Edinburgh University’s Research and Innovation arm (ERI) helped 41 new companies take their first steps into the world of business. The organisation’s aim is to inspire commercial successes, launch new enterprises and grow fledgling companies.

For example, with help from ERI, sound design graduate Orfeas Boteas launched Krotos, the sound effect software that gave Marvel’s Ultron his voice in the latest Avengers movie. With Salesforce, more students like Orfeas can connect with the right investors and the best mentors in the university network.

“Creating commercial success from academic excellence is all about making the right connections,” says Sarah Scace, Marketing and Communications Manager at ERI. “With Salesforce, we can bring people together to turn intellectual property into pounds.”

Salesforce has also enabled the organisation to cut event admin by two-thirds, reduce consultancy timescales and increase the number of delegates at its events six-fold.

“Edinburgh is currently the third most entrepreneurial university in the UK,” explains Scace. “With Salesforce on board we’re planning to be the first.”

Managing opportunities and events

Sales Cloud was launched to 60 employees at ERI in March 2013, and is now used across all departments to track commercial opportunities, potential investors, mentors, academic experts and entrepreneurial students and faculty.

Using Sales Cloud and the Salesforce App Cloud, the consultancy team has created an online portal for commercial collaboration opportunities, known as BOX (Business Opportunity Exchange). Stewart Anderson, IT Manager at ERI explains, “If a pharmaceutical company is looking to conduct research or for expertise in a particular field, the team posts the request on BOX and academics can register their interest in assisting.”

Those registered are then automatically updated if they are selected to work with the company by the commercial relations team, and notified of any new opportunities arising in their field of expertise. The consultancy team also brings companies and academics together on projects requiring consultancy. “Making these matches used to take three weeks per transaction. Now we can go from initial talks to signing a contract in just three days,” confirms Anderson.

Matching business opportunities with academic expertise is just one way in which ERI encourages commercialisation. It also holds 44 events every year that are designed to motivate, inform and advise entrepreneurs.

Using Salesforce CRM has transformed how these events are managed, as Anderson explains, “Events used to involve a lot of admin for the team, so we created the Blueberry Events tool using the Salesforce App Cloud. The solution enables the team to manage contact lists, potential speakers and event registrations much more easily.”

For example, the Salesforce solution is fully integrated with ERI’s website so when attendees register online, they receive a QR code that enables them to log-in when they arrive at an event with minimal intervention from ERI staff.

“Event planning is smoother as our data is detailed, de-duplicated and up-to-date,” adds Scace. “We can easily identify potential speakers and ensure that we’re not over-using the same people. In 2015 we had 1,800 delegates at our events, compared to 300 in 2013. There’s no way we would have been able to cope with the admin involved without the Salesforce solution.”

Making better connections

From event VIPs to commercial partners, Sales Cloud ensures that ERI stays engaged and informed. “With Sales Cloud we can better understand the needs of the businesses that we work with, and match the right mentors to the right start-up companies,” explains Scace. “We can also ensure that we regularly communicate with them and are attentive to their needs.”

By providing better access to data and freeing up teams from time-consuming admin, Salesforce CRM is helping the organisation be more creative. For example, the team can identify potential PR opportunities and case studies and measure its success. “The Sales Cloud dashboards enable us to track KPIs, such as company formations and fulfilled investment opportunities,” says Scace. “We can see at a glance how well we’re doing, and whether we’re missing opportunities.”

Thanks to Salesforce CRM’s integration capabilities, ERI can also work more effectively with the rest of the university, and the Salesforce1 Mobile App means that the consultancy team can answer queries immediately when on the road meeting commercial clients. “We now have a level of transparency and integration that just wasn’t feasible before,” explains Anderson.

These capabilities will help ERI as it continues in its efforts to commercialise academic excellence. “We’ve had a record year, and Salesforce has been a major factor in our success,” concludes Scace. “With Salesforce at our side, we can help more Edinburgh University’s academics ensure that their research has the greatest impact on the British economy.”

Fast Facts:

  • 16,000 contacts managed in Sales Cloud
  • 41 start-ups launched in 2014
  • 44 events run every year
  • 6-fold increase in event delegates

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