Dr Nicola Searle

Staff details

Dr Nicola Searle


Digital Economy Fellow


Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship


n.searle (@gold.ac.uk)

Nicola specialises in economics and management of IP, with a focus on the creative industries and trade secrets.

Dr. Nicola Searle is Senior Lecturer at ICCE. An economist and management scholar who specialises in innovation, intellectual property and the digital economy, Nicola joined ICCE in 2015. She has two key research lines: the first examines innovation in the creative industries through the lens of copyright and business models in digital media. The second investigates trade secrets, knowledge flows and innovation.

Dr. Searle is Chair of the EPSRC Digital Security and Resilience Advisory Board, member of the UK Intellectual Property Office’s (IPO) Expert Advisory Group, Visiting Professor at Bologna University and Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Innovation Management Research, Birkbeck. Dr. Searle has been awarded three prestigious Fellowships: a Thomas Edison Innovation Policy Fellowship at the Center for Intellectual Policy and Innovation Policy at George Mason University a UKRI Digital Economy Early Career Fellowship and an AHRC/ESRC Placement Fellowship.

Academic qualifications

  • PhD in Economics, University of St Andrews 2010
  • MSc in International Strategy and Economics, University of St Andrews 2006
  • BSFS in International Economics, Georgetown University (U.S.A.) 2000

Teaching and supervision

Dr. Searle teaches on the MACCE degree, where she runs the Theories of Capital and Dissertation & Project modules and supervises students and dissertations throughout the year.

She also supervises PhD research, current student projects include:

  • From Community to Market: Institutionalizing Intellectual Property in the Commercialization of Traditional Chinese Crafts (with Dr. K. Meng)
  • Creative innovation hubs and knowledge flows (with Prof. V. Alexander)
  • The Application of Integrated Data Analytics in Risk Management of the Film Business: Cases Studies of China’s Internet-Based Film Business Models (with Dr. M. Franklin)

Research interests

Dr. Searle’s primary area of interest is the economics and management of Intellectual Property, with focuses on the Digital Economy and the Creative Industries. In this, she researches the economics of trade secrets and economic espionage, and business models, IP & digital media. Dr. Searle's includes an interdisciplinary theme, reflected in collaborations with scholars in law, sociology, technology and the creative arts.

As of 2023, Nicola is a Thomas Edison Innovation Policy Fellow at the Center for Intellectual Policy and Innovation Policy, George Mason University. Her project seeks to understand the value of trade secrets and their context in the innovation landscape.

From 2017 - 2022, Dr. Searle held an EPSRC Digital Economy Fellowship (grant EP/P005039/1.) Her fellowship, entitled “Economic Espionage and Cybercrime: Evidence and Strategy,” looks at the increasing importance of trade secrets in the digital world, and the emerging threats of the theft of trade secrets and economic espionage through cybercrime.

Dr. Searle's research incorporates insights developed over her career. She served as a government economist at the IPO from 2013 to 2015. Prior to her role at the IPO, Nicola was the lead Associate on the Moving Targets project at the School of Arts, Media & Computer Games at Abertay University from 2010-2012. Nicola also served as Academic Supervisor for two Knowledge Transfer Projects (KTP) with the Institute for Capitalising on Creativity (ICC, St Andrews) and Creative Scotland on the film industry and use of IP by Scottish creative businesses. Dr. Searle was a member of the prominent IP blog, the IPKat, for five years. Her work also reflects knowledge developed from running a social photography business and four years working for Goldman Sachs.

Grants and awards

2023: Thomas Edison Innovation Policy and Law Fellowship
Edison Fellow at the Center for Innovation Policy and Intellectual Property at George Mason University to develop a project on the value of trade secrets.

2021: European Commission Study Contract: The Legal Protection of Trade Secrets in the Context of the Data Economy
Study contract, European Commission Executive Agency for Small & Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME), Member of Co-development team, with IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems.

2021: UK Intellectual Property Office research commission
Principal Investigator commissioned to investigate innovation and economic impacts of trade secrets

2018: Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property, George Mason University, Grant
Principal Investigator commissioned to analyse copyright narratives and digital media business models.

2017: EPSRC Digital Economy Fellowship
Economic Espionage and Cyber Crime: Evidence and Strategy: Four-year fellowship to investigate cybercrime with a focus on economic espionage and the theft of trade secrets.

2017: CREATe Grant
Meta-Analysis of CREATe Business Models

Publications and research outputs


Tonwley, Barbara; Roscoe, Philip and Searle, Nicola. 2019. Creating Economy: Enterprise, Intellectual Property and the Valuation of Goods. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198795285

Searle, Nicola and Brassell, Martin. 2016. Economic Approaches to Intellectual Property. Cambridge: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198736264

Book Section

Searle, Nicola. 2018. The hard sell: economics and intellectual property policy in the creative and cultural industries. In: Abbe Brown and Charlotte Waelde, eds. Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and Creative Industries. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, pp. 351-358. ISBN 9781786431172

Searle, Nicola. 2017. Cultural economics, innovation and intellectual property. In: Victoria Durrer; Toby Miller and David O'Brien, eds. The Routledge Handbook of Global Cultural Policy. Oxon: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781138857827

Searle, Nicola and White, Gregor. 2013. Chapter 5: Business models. In: Ruth Towse and Christian Handke, eds. Handbook on the Digital Creative Economy. Gloucestershire: Edward Elgar, pp. 45-56. ISBN 978 1 78100 487 6


Aplin, Tanya; Radauer, Alfred; Bader, Martin A. and Searle, Nicola. 2023. The role of trade secrets law in the data economy: an empirical analysis. IIC - International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law, 54(6), pp. 826-858. ISSN 0018-9855

Radauer, Alfred; Searle, Nicola and Bader, Martin A.. 2023. The possibilities and limits of trade secrets to protect data shared between firms in agricultural and food sectors. World Patent Information, 73, 102183. ISSN 0172-2190

Basuchoudhary, Atin and Searle, Nicola. 2019. Snatched secrets: Cybercrime and trade secrets modelling a firm's decision to report a theft of trade secrets. Computers & Security, 87, 101591. ISSN 0167-4048

Conference or Workshop Item

Searle, Nicola and Choudhary, Atin Basu. 2017. 'Snatched Secrets: Reporting Trade Secrets Theft Modelling a firm’s decision to report a theft of trade secrets'. In: European Association of Law & Economics (EALE) 34th annual conference. University of Liverpool London, United Kingdom 14 - 16 September, 2017.


Radauer, Alfred; Bader, Martin; Aplin, Tanya; Konopka, Ute; Searle, Nicola; Altenburger, Reinhard and Bachner, Christine. 2022. Study on the legal protection of trade secrets in the context of the data economy : final report. Project Report. European Commission, European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, Brussels/Luxembourg.

Searle, Nicola. 2021. The Economic and Innovation Impacts of Trade Secrets. Technical Report. UK IPO, London.

Searle, Nicola. 2017. Business Models, Intellectual Property and the Creative Industries: A Meta-analysis. Working Paper. CREATe.


Searle, Nicola. 2010. The economics of trade secrets : evidence from the Economic Espionage Act. Doctoral thesis, University of St. Andrews

Professional projects

Policymaking - Dr. Searle has authored several policy reports for the UK IPO and the European Commission and regularly advises policymaking bodies, including the UN's World Intellectual Property Office. Dr. Searle has served as an Expert Witness to Parliament and consistently provides expertise to government consultations. She is a Board Member for the European Policy in Intellectual Property Association.

Advising UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding and Policies - Dr. Searle is very involved in supporting UK government research funding, including in the following roles:

  • Chair, Digital Security and Resilience Project Advisory Group, since 2022
  • Full Member, EPSRC Peer Review College, top 6% Reviewer (2020), since 2017
  • Chair, EPSRC Technology Missions Fund, Value for Money Panel, 2023
  • Chair or Member, Digital Economy Project Advisory Board, 2017-2022
  • Chair, Digital Economy Telling Tales for Engagement Panel, 2022
  • Chair, EPSRC Network Plus Funding Prioritisation and Interview Panels, 2021–2022
  • Member, Prioritisation, Interview Panels, EPSRC Privacy Enhancing Technologies, 2020
  • Member, Interview Panels, EPSRC Next Stage Digital Economy Centres, 2015, 2020

Media engagements

2023: Shielding trade secrets during a ‘cybersecurity pandemic’
Quoted as expert in IAM publication investigating the management of trade secrets facing cybersecurity threat

2022: Article for The Times Higher Education
Following her presentation of oral evidence to House of Lords’ Communications & Digital Select Committee, authored this reflection on the process and how academics can maximise their impact.

2022: Speaker at the Microsoft Intelligence Summit
Broadcast to thousands of people worldwide, served as an expert speaker at the Intelligence Summit on cybersecurity and trade secrets.

Conferences and talks

2023: Seminar Speaker, Manipal University Jaipur, India
presented "Trade Secrets in Collaborative Environments"

2023: Chatham House Roundtable Participant

2023: Panellist - 30th anniversary FIDE Global Digital Encounters
Panellist, IP Implications of the Data Economy

2022: Expert Witness, House of Lords’ Communications and Digital Select Committee
Served as expert witness to inform the Inquiry into the Creative Industries

2021: Keynote Speaker
"Trade Secrets and Patents at the Innovation Level", Society of Legal Scholars

2019: Panel Member
"Innovation and Trade Secrets", WIPO Trade Secrets Symposium, Geneva, Switzerland.


Dr. Searle's work has featured in two Research Excellence Framework (REF) government evaluations of research:

UK REF Impact Case Study, 2022
Imbedding Economics into Intellectual Property Practice and Policy, Business and Management Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London, based solely on Dr. Searle's research; evaluated as internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour.

UK REF Impact Case Study, 2014
Capitalising on creativity in the film and screen industry, Business and Management Studies, University of St Andrews, as part of a team with Professor Barbara Townley; evaluated as world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.