Out-Law News 2 min. read

UCL launches £50m investment fund to help commercialise research

University College London (UCL) has set up a £50 million investment fund, which it will use to support its academics whose research "has commercial potential".

The UCL Technology Fund, which is supported by the European Investment Fund (EIF) and public technology commercialisation company Imperial Innovations, will provide funding for early stage proof of concept, licensing projects and new 'spinout' companies. It will be managed by independent venture capital investor Albion Ventures, which is also contributing to the fund.

UCL's existing technology transfer company, UCL Business (UCLB), has already spun out over 60 companies to commercialise intellectual developed by academics at the university. Recent successes include life sciences companies Freeline and Autolus, which are developing gene therapies for blood disorders and cancer immunotherapy treatments respectively. Another UCLB company, Senceive, provides wireless monitoring technology to construction and railway companies while Mediagamma specialises in advertising technology.

"UCL has an impressive track record of commercialising our research through licensing and spin-outs and the launch of the UCL Technology Fund underlines our long-term approach towards investment," said Dr Celia Caulcott, the university's vice-provost for enterprise.

"Together with our partners, we will ensure UCL continues to maximise the commercial opportunities of its innovative and ground-breaking research, with the aim of benefitting society as a whole and producing economic impact. The fund exemplifies UCL's 'Grand Challenges' strategy, which bring expertise from across UCL and beyond to solve key global problems," she said.

"There is an ever increasing number of academic and research bodies looking to attract funding and it will be interesting to see which universities will be the winners and be shown to have adopted the best model," said universities expert Russell Booker of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. "The Oxford Sciences Innovation deal with Oxford and a fundraising of £320m does look like a game changer."

UCL was ranked number one among UK universities for its research strength in the recently-published Research Excellence Framework (REF) and is particularly strong in the life sciences, engineering and information communication technology fields. The UCL Technology Fund is the first investment fund that the university has launched to commercialise its research and is expected to increase the number of projects that can be supported by UCLB and the financial returns that they deliver to the university.

Investment partner Imperial Innovations grew out of Imperial College London and is now an AIM-listed investor in companies and licensing opportunities developed from research by universities in the so-called 'Golden Triangle' of London, Cambridge and Oxford. It has committed £24.75m to the fund, an investment which has been matched by the EIF.

"Innovation's participation in the fund is expected to significantly increase the group's access to deal-flow from one of the world's leading universities and provide new opportunities to apply our skills and investment capital," said Russ Cummings, the company's chief executive.

"As well as enhancing the opportunities from UCL, we are signalling a step-change in our support to commercialise the outstanding research output from the UK's elite universities. This is a new, collaborative model that could be replicated with other universities," he said.

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