Universities outside the ‘golden triangle’ of Cambridge, London and Oxford are outperforming expectations when it comes to spinout success, according to a report.
This year, Octopus Ventures’ Entrepreneurial Impact report found that 60 per cent of the top ten performers are based outside the golden triangle, with the University of Dundee topping the list – in part due to the £2.2bn IPO of AI drug discovery company Exscientia on the US NASDAQ, one of the largest ever UK university exits.
Queen’s University Belfast came second in the list – above the University of Cambridge – having recently announced its 100th spinout.
The ranking was determined by factors such as patents, number of spinouts created and recent portfolio success.
Spinouts are companies which start their research and development within universities and then scale outside of them.
Dr David McBeth, vice-principal of enterprise and economic transformation at the University of Dundee, said of the results: “This recognition is fantastic news and a testament to the many years of hard work undertaken to create a thriving entrepreneurial culture at the University of Dundee.
“The main foundations of our success are world-leading life and biomedical sciences research, and innovative researchers. At a time when there is a lot of chatter about standardising spinout arrangements, we pride ourselves on fostering great relationships with investors and founding teams and treating each company according to its individual circumstances.”
However, despite success from universities, the current environment is still turbulent. The UK academic community was heavily affected by Brexit, with many European funded research grants and Regional Development Funds ending.
There is also the lack of available lab space for institutions across the UK and of available capital.
“Sustained funding for research and innovation, and consistent support for spinouts is vital if the UK’s universities are to continue generating globally impactful technologies,” deep tech investor at Octopus Ventures, Dr Amy Nommeots-Nomm, said.
But Zoe Reich, general partner of the Octopus Investments pre-seed deep tech fund, said that while spinouts are faced with a complicated ecosystem, a number of institutions are working to identify and fix the current challenges.
“We’ve seen a rise in the amount of capital available to invest in spinouts,” she said. “Northern Gritstone’s £250m mandate to deploy capital across spinouts from Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield, and Mindforge’s intention to raise a fund to deploy across the Midlands, are exciting developments.
“In July, we also saw the announcement from the UK government that it will unlock 5 per cent of UK pension capital for investment into high growth companies. It’s reassuring to see that capital is being raised with the specific mandate of supporting the growth and success of spinouts in the UK”.
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