John Darlington is helping staff and students in Physical Sciences and Engineering engage with the business sector. He accumulated vast experience of commercialising cutting edge technologies in managerial roles at IBM, Microsoft, Sony and start ups before joining the University of Southampton. John’s work ranges from developing potential spinout companies through to establishing research collaborations with both industry and the public sector.
He was born in Knutsford, near Manchester, but has spent most of his life living on the south coast. He returned to his home county to study Computer Science at the University of Manchester before starting an enviable career at some of the world’s largest technology companies. “l have tried to develop a quite broad set of skills and that is something l would recommend to anybody,” he says. “l started out as a computer scientist but quickly tried to work through different aspects of management and areas of business like marketing and product planning and introduction.”
John spent 10 years at multinational corporation IBM, settling in roles either side of the Atlantic in areas such as mainframe computer graphics and the early generations of PCs. He helped ship the first version of the OS2 operating system and managed new product development and marketing activities including brand management for the Transaction Processing range of software. He joined Microsoft and led the team that created Windows Media Player and enabled full screen video playback in Windows for the first time.
His next opportunity arose at Sony, where he coordinated work on professional editing suites, news editing systems and other software. With a wealth of business experience under his belt, John went on to support several early stage startups – raising millions of pounds of venture capital and seed funding. He was Chief Technology Officer, then C.E.O., at Active Navigation Limited during a seven year spell at the University of Southampton spinout.
“All of the skills that you would need to be an entrepreneur can be gained in the corporate environment,” he says. “I had always wanted to do something entrepreneurial – you just have to wait for the opportunity that you think is the right one. Here at the University we are trying to get new businesses started every year.”
John’s current role connects University of Southampton research and expertise with business, industry and government. “One way we interact with businesses is on a small personal consultancy scale,” he says. “I am often approached by academics saying they have been contacted by a company but don’t know how to engage in the process of working with them. I want to help create positive collaborations for both parties.”
Businesses interested in working with the University on any scale are encouraged to get in contact with John. His expertise is also available anyone within his Faculty whose work could potentially lead to outcomes with enterprise and impact.
“If you’re in Physical Sciences and Engineering and you’ve got potential product or service that you want to promote into the market, then l can help you with that,” he says. “Or, if you’re an academic or a postdoc who has been approached by a company and you want some advice, then l am here to help.” You can get in touch with John using the contact form on this page.
John encourages University staff and students to seriously consider turning their ideas into new companies. “I think that creating any form of business is a great thing to do,” he says. “Some businesses can grow to be huge, the next Google and Facebook, but others grow to only be support five to 10 people and have a million pounds or two turnover.
“If you actually look at the structure of businesses in the UK you will find that nearly 50% of people are employed in small and medium-sized enterprises. So it is really important that, while you have that aspiration to create something that could be a Facebook or a Google, it’s actually no failure to create a company that supports 10 people with a few million pounds turnover. Just go and create your business.”