UCL launches £50 million technology investment fund

University College London (UCL) has launched its own technology fund to invest £50 million over five years to commercialise cutting-edge research emerging from its academic researchers.

The UCL Technology Fund will support early-stage proof of concept, licensing projects and new spinout companies – a rich source of new biotech and life science companies.

UCL is ranked number one for its research strength in the UK’s recent Research Excellence Framework, and has a long track record of developing businesses through its technology transfer arm, UCL Business (UCLB).

UCLB has launched over 60 spinout companies to commercialise intellectual property developed by UCL researchers. Recent UCLB spinouts include Freeline, which is developing gene therapies for blood disorders and Autolus, which is developing cancer immunotherapy treatment.

However, until now, UCL has seen limited financial benefits from the spinout companies, as it hasn’t been able to make significant capital investments in the firms. The technology fund will change this, allowing the university to support more projects, and retain more of the financial returns when companies prove successful.

The university wants to catch up with rivals such as fellow London neighbours Imperial College. Its Imperial Innovations technology fund has been highly successful in supporting new life science companies in recent years. The most recent example of this was Circassia, a spinout focused on novel allergy treatments which floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2014. Imperial Innovations has a 9.3% share in the company, currently worth £79.8 million ($114 million).

In the US, Harvard’s Office of Technology Development is one of the most successful technology funds in life sciences.

The academic excellence of London’s universities, along with Oxford and Cambridge, have helped create the so-called ‘golden triangle’ in the UK, forming Europe’s leading biotech hub. Academic institutions, teaching hospitals and pharma and biotech are deepening their collaborations in the region to generate innovation faster and more cheaply.

The UCL fund will support ventures across all disciplines, from the sciences, to engineering and information communication technology.

It has secured funding from the European Investment Fund (EIF), one of the largest providers of venture investment in Europe, and from Imperial Innovations.

EIF and Imperial Innovations have each committed £24.75 million to the Fund, which will have an initial investment period of five years. EIF’s contribution to the UCL Technology Fund is supported by the Investment Plan for Europe.

The fund will be managed by Albion Ventures, one of the UK’s largest independent venture capital investors, which will also contribute to the fund.

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