London University Creates $72 Million Venture Capital Fund

London

The Main Building of University College London.

Photographer: Ricky Leaver/LOOP IMAGES/UIG via Getty Images
  • Money will fund startups commercializing academic research
  • Albion Ventures to manage fund and co-invest in portfolio

University College London is starting a 50 million pound ($72 million) fund to commercialize technologies pioneered by its researchers, the school announced today.

The fund will invest in promising technologies across the university’s many disciplines, from life science to engineering to communications technology. It will provide money for academics to do initial proof of concept work, licensing projects and for the initial set-up of spinout companies, the university said.

UCL joins a growing number of academic institutions around the world that have created venture funds in recent years to cash in on the business potential of their academics’ work. These include the University of Oxford’s 300 million pound Oxford Sciences Innovation fund, which opened last May; the University of California’s $250 million UC Ventures fund, started in 2014; and Imperial College London’s Imperial Innovations, which has raised 346 million pounds since listing on AIM in 2006.

Imperial Innovations is providing 24.75 million pounds -- or almost half -- the money for UCL’s new fund. An equal amount is coming from the European Investment Fund, which is part of the European Union’s European Investment Bank.

The UCL fund will be managed by London’s Albion Ventures, a private venture capital firm, that will also contribute the remainder of the new fund’s capital. The fund will have a five-year investment horizon.

UCL has long-run a technology transfer company, called UCL Business, that provides business expertise, legal advise, licensing and administrative support (but critically, not funding) to researchers seeking to commercialize technologies developed through their academic work at UCL. The university says it has spawned more than 60 spin-out companies, including gene-therapy company Freeline, remote sensor and monitoring startup Senceive, and advertising technology company Mediagamma.

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