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Entrepreneurship - A Case Study From Two View Points
Graham Richards
Tony Marchington

Entrepreneurship - A Case Study From Two View Points


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Entrepreneurship - A Case Study From Two Viewpoints is a truly pioneering business book. Two academics, Professor Graham Richards, one of Oxford University's leading chemists, and his canny research student, Tony Marchington, take turns to tell the story of a business, professional and personal journey that saw academic discovery become a then-unique business, floated on the stockmarket. It is a tale of millions made - and lost. But the creation of Oxford Molecular is more than just a turn of the IPO roulette wheel. Richards and Marchington revolutionised the worlds of business and academia, inventing a whole new asset class now known as the biotechnology sector, and daring to scandalise an academic world that once despised the commercialisation of research.


Despite its many flaws and ultimate demise, Oxford Molecular was special.  It inspired a generation in Oxford, in the UK and indeed worldwide.  Some were motivated through admiration, most through jealousy, but all strove to emulate our success by setting up their own high-tech University spin-outs, and trying to take them public.  In Oxford itself, with the formation of more spinout companies, came the first Oxford-based venture capitalists, business angels and intellectual property companies, alongside the University’s own Isis Innovation.  Soon, a whole new, and highly valuable economic sector had been created, generating huge numbers of highly paid jobs, reviving the prosperity of the region, and at last overcoming the long perpetuated myth that the UK was good at invention but lacked the ability to successfully commercialise the resulting intellectual property.

All this is rushing ahead, however, and my thoughts turn first to my own background, and that very first meeting with Graham, in Brasenose College, Oxford, in November 1972.

I had travelled to Oxford that afternoon, ready for an evening interview and overnight stay in College.  Sure enough, as I checked in at the porters’ lodge, the list on the college notice board already confirmed that Mr A.F. Marchington was required for interview in the Stocker Room at 6 pm.  Six o’clock, however, came and went, as did six thirty, and then seven.  Obviously things were running behind.  Then, at around seven thirty I was called from the nearby common room to the interview.

Inside the said Stocker Room sat at least ten Brasenose dons, but the questions were to come from just two of them.  Most came from an older man in his late fifties.  This turned out to be Dr John Barltrop, fellow of the college, and lecturer in organic chemistry.  The others were from a much younger man in his early thirties, Dr Graham Richards.  What I did not then appreciate was that this was already a dynasty.  Barltrop had tutored Richards only a decade earlier, and although I did not know it at the time, John Barltrop would also tutor me in organic chemistry at Brasenose.  In the process, like Graham Richards, he was later to become a close and much-loved friend.

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