University spinouts: what are the benefits of the system and how does it work?

"Universities are pretty much the source of inventiveness," Douglas Hansen-Luke, the founder of university venture fund Future Planet Capital told Techworld. "Depending on which university it is, they can also be quite good at commercialising it. To us, it seems silly to take lots of risk on startups which don't have a university connection."

The Challenge Of University Venturing

In Mike Rees’ recent consultation to the National Centre for Universities and Business, Future Planet Capital outlined the two challenges facing all universities today:

Although university ventures have a lower failure rate, their initiatives can take longer to develop as they don’t have the same financial limitations as a traditional start-up. In some instances, the process from research to conceptualisation can take a decade. However, this means founders are constantly under pressure to ensure their product or service remains relevant and competitive.

Secondly, by solely focusing on the UK for investment, university ventures run the risk of a narrow pool of funding. It is crucial that they become connected to international markets as this will help them engage with international audiences and investors. An example of a successful UK-based venture that has developed an impressive global presence is PragmatIC, a world leader in ultra low cost flexible electronics. PragmatIC has successfully developed a product that is applicable and relevant to both national and international audiences.

Although each university may face its own individual challenges, it is important that universities think global from day one. A lot of the world’s international investors are viewing Britain as a great research hub and investment opportunity – we need to make sure that our universities, businesses and government’s place the same amount of confidence in our abilities.

Future Planet Host's Innovation Reception with Dr. Liam Fox in Korea

During his maiden visit to Seoul last Friday (5th October), the Secretary of State for the Department of International Trade (DIT), the Rt. Hon. Dr. Liam Fox emphasised how Korea should consider Britain as its next innovation investment destination over Silicon Valley.

Britain’s ‘Golden Triangle’ which spans across Oxford, Cambridge and London, is currently undervalued despite the Golden Triangle cities being spotlighted as the key areas spurring the growth and innovation of Britain’s Industry 4.0. The UK is home to the best universities in the world, it leads the way in research output and was ranked the third most innovative centre of innovation by KPMG’s 2018 report. The ‘Cambridge Cluster’, for example, has attracted more than £153 million in digital tech investments and has provided over 30,000 digital tech jobs, yet valuations remain much lower than Silicon Valley.


Taking a bright idea from academia and turning it into a successful business presents a unique set of problems for entrepreneurs and scientists alike — James Hurley for The Times

Douglas Hansen-Luke, executive chairman of Future Planet Capital, which orchestrates investment in promising companies that emerge from universities, said that the long gestation of spin-outs had informed its investment strategy: “We wait for winners to emerge. We only invest when they can demonstrate commercial readiness. Investment in the early stages of spin-outs is best done locally…”

“…Britain’s spin-outs need to take a global attitude, not a parochial one. If we take too parochial an attitude, it won’t scale up and an overseas rival will develop it instead. We need to get British companies thinking global from day one.”

FPC & 8GT sign 3bn RMB MOU during PM's trip to China

  • FPC & 8GT sign one of the biggest ever single commitments to British innovation

  • Shenzen Qian Hai Sunflower Financial Services and Jian Xin Tian Ran Investment Management will in principle invest 3 billion RMB ($470 million)

  • Boosts healthcare innovation and bio-technology collaboration between the UK and China

The agreement was signed during UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s state visit to China and witnessed by Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox.

Douglas Hansen-Luke, Executive Chairman at Future Planet Capital, said: “We are honoured to support 8GT’s leading scientists and delighted to be part of a consortium receiving China's biggest ever single investment into foreign IP. This partnership demonstrates our continued commitment to accelerating innovation in leading centres of innovation around the world. This collaborative effort is unique: we look forward to working together closely to fund the companies of the future addressing global challenges today."


Align17 Announce Future Planet Capital as Founding Investment Partner

Future Planet Capital, the world’s first global platform to invest in leading universities and the “centres of innovation” that surround them, was today announced as a founding investment partner of Align17 at the World Economic Forum in Davos

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Align17, a private impact investment platform that offers vetted co-investment opportunities to private wealth alongside world-class impact investors, will work to connect the $63.5tn of private wealth to the world-changing companies emerging from Future Planet Capital’s portfolio. FPC will offer the platform an unrivalled level of access to alumni and growth stage companies from Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Stanford, Tsinghua and the University of California through its series of partnerships. 

Georgie Benardete, Co-Founder at Align 17, commented: "We are incredibly excited to have Future Planet Capital as one of our founding investment partners. Through their distinct set of university partnerships, they will bring unique opportunities for our private clients to achieve impact at scale through innovation."


Future Planet Capital sponsor UC Berkeley Entrepreneur Campaign

The University of California has just announced the five finalists of its new “I am a UC Entrepreneur” contest for alumni, sponsored by Future Planet Capital

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Alumni from the University of California system have raised over $44bn in capital over the last 11 years and have incorporated over 3240 companies. Now, five cutting-edge startups have won the opportunity to pitch to over 600 business leaders at this year's Global Corporate Venturing and Innovation Summit in Monterey, CA. 

The five companies will be mentored by Barbara Burger, President of Chevron Technology Ventures, Vitaly Golomb, Partner at HP Tech Ventures, Francis Ho, VP at the Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center, Jeremy Kranz, SVP and head of GIC's Technology Investment Group and Charlie Fiechter, Managing Member at Greenleaf-TNX Management, LLC.

Following the GCVI pitch sessions, Future Planet Capital will also select one finalist to take part in the second annual Future Planet Awards that will take place at Global Corporate Venturing’s symposium in London in May 2018.

Future Planet Capital Pledge up to £30m for Tsinghua University Spinouts

FPC Chairman, Lord Norman Foster and Executive Chairman, Douglas Hansen-Luke present x-lab's Bluepha with the 2017 Future Planet Award for Sustainable Growth.

FPC Chairman, Lord Norman Foster and Executive Chairman, Douglas Hansen-Luke present x-lab's Bluepha with the 2017 Future Planet Award for Sustainable Growth.

Future Planet Capital (FPC), a London-based investor which funds innovative startups, has announced it will invest up to £30m in businesses spinning out from China's Tsinghua University.

Tsinghua University's X-lab is a platform which supports and facilitates startups founded by Tsinghua alumni, students or faculties. Since its launch in 2013, it has worked with more than 1190 project teams and incorporated over 480 companies.

FPC's investments will be focused on the ideas working to profitably tackle global challenges such as climate change, education, health and security.

HM Treasury Announces Future Planet Capital partnership with Tsinghua University's x-lab

Around £1.4 billion worth of commercial deals, an agreement to accelerate the final preparations for the London-Shanghai Stock Connect initiative and new commitments to develop work on the Mutual Recognition of Funds and a bond connect, have been announced as part of the 9th UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) held in Beijing this weekend.

Included is the announcement that Future Planet Capital will be the international investment partner of Tsinghua x-lab, Tsinghua Univeristy's cross-faculty incubator. Since its launch in April 2013, Tsinghua’s x-lab has grown rapidly, working with over 1000 project teams and incorporating over 420 companies. The incubator helps companies from across sectors at all stages of development. 

Future Planet Capital announces Partnership with Owl Ventures

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Future Planet Capital, the world’s first global platform to invest in leading universities and the “centres of innovation” that surround them, announces a limited partnership investment in Owl Ventures, a world-leading venture capital fund that invests in education technology companies. Owl Ventures will be Future Planet Capital’s strategic partner in the education sector.

Based in San Francisco and founded in 2014, Owl Ventures closed its $185m second fund in October 2017. Owl Ventures has invested in numerous fast growing transformative companies such as Accelerate Learning, a comprehensive digital PreK-12 STEM curriculum; Lingo Live, a language and communications programme; Quizlet, one of the largest educational platforms in the world; and RaiseMe, an online scholarship platform. 

The Budget: Where are the International Investors?

Excellent news for British Innovation this week as the Chancellor unveiled measures to unlock over £20bn of new investment in British technology. Many of the pledges were in response to the Treasury's Patient Capital Review (read our submission here) and included £2.5bn seed funding for a British Business Bank incubated patient capital fund, measures to facilitate pension fund access to innovation and the doubling of EIS investment limits.

“A fantastic budget for British Innovation, but once again British Parliament's parochial attitude comes through," Douglas Hansen-Luke, Executive Chairman of Future Planet Capital. told Private Equity News. "Neither British Taxpayers nor British Pension Funds need to fund this; there are countless international investors queuing up to invest in British Innovation. At Future Planet Capital, we are unlocking international capital, eager to invest with Britain’s top universities and research centres. This brings money into the U.K. and boosts our economy; the government should do more to facilitate this kind of inward investment, not least in light of the EIF’s likely withdrawal of future funding.”

The Budget: Fully Driverless Cars on UK Roads by 2021

This week, Chancellor Philip Hammond's Autumn Budget announced government support for driverless cars. Amid pledges of £540m to electric and autonomous vehicles, he told the House of Commons "Our future vehicles will be driverless". This comes after comments earlier in the week assuring regulatory changes that would allow fully autonomous cars on British roads by 2021.

“The Chancellor was right to give the go-ahead for driverless cars," Douglas Hansen-Luke, Executive Chairman of Future Planet Capital told Reuters in response to the news. "A human driving a lethal weapon is not a good idea. Road deaths are the world’s biggest cause of premature death with over 1.2 million dying annually. Automated cars are far safer than people.”

“What the budget doesn’t address, however, are the approximately 140 million employed globally as professional drivers. Any government support of artificial intelligence and robots needs to simultaneously take account of likely job losses.”

Managers hard at work on sustainable development

As a number of pension funds around the world come to grips with implementing the United Nations' 17 sustainable development goals into their portfolios, money managers have also been working away in the background.

Despite the work by some high-profile institutional investors, some managers said they are not yet getting questions from their clients.

"Clients are not bringing it up with us directly yet, but companies are," said Will Oulton, global head, responsible investment at First State Investments in London. "We have seen companies quite proactive in saying, 'We're going to report on how contributing to the SDGs is most relevant to our sector,'" he said. 

Patient Capital? Time for a national database to match investors with innovators

Last November, the Treasury launched the Patient Capital Review.

Its aim was to identify the barriers that innovative companies may face in gaining access to long term, supportive finance.

It is being overseen by an A list of entrepreneurs and investment experts, chaired by former Permira head Sir Damon Buffini, who are supremely well-qualified to define the issue and recommend solutions.

University start-ups aim for the Facebook formula - The Financial Times

Earlier this year, Future Planet Capital, a global innovation platform, announced the launch of a $39m British Innovation Fund, designed to focus on the “commercialisation of research emerging out of UK universities”.

“For us, innovation is a new and profitable way of doing things,” says co-founder Douglas Hansen-Luke. “We’re looking for projects with the potential to work and make a profit.”

Future Planet also acts as a platform for some of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, scouting opportunities among emerging talent at universities around the globe.

How the first global university venture fund hopes to change the world

Future Planet Capital wants to connect investors to startups to help solve the biggest issues facing the planet.

The world's first global university venture fund was founded in 2015 to connect major investors, startups and academics to develop commercially viable technology that addresses challenges around climate change, health, sustainability, education, or security.

Future Planet Capital press release: Tuesday 23rd May 2017

Today, Future Planet Capital hosted an inaugural awards ceremony honouring the best start-ups across five categories at the Global Corporate Venturing Symposium.

The overall winner, PragmatIC, was picked by a judging panel chaired by world-renowned architect Lord Foster, with other panel members including education reformer Lord Nat Wei, Patrick Chung, founding partner of Xfund, Nick Greenwood, Fund Manager, Royal County of Berkshire Pension Fund and Jim Wilkinson, CEO, Oxford Sciences Innovation.

Future Planet Capital press release: Tuesday 16 May 2017

DMS Governance ("DMS"), the world's leading fund governance firm, is delighted to announce the addition of Future Planet Fund 1 (the "Fund") to its DMS QIAIF Platform ICAV. This is a global innovation fund, connecting the world's biggest investors to the best minds, to profitably address the world's greatest challenges.  The investment objective is to maximize long-term capital gains by providing multi-stage investment in technology and life science firms.  The Fund will invest in innovations that (i) are relatively immune to macroeconomic factors, (ii) reduce unrewarded risks, (iii) are scalable and have a proven business model.

Future Planet Capital press release: Thursday 27 April 2017

Congenica, a world leader in clinical genomics software for inherited diseases, today announced completion of its recently announced Series B funding round with additional investments from new strategically important investors BGI Genomics (BGI), a recognized global leader in genomics, Healthlink Capital (Healthlink), another well-established China-based life-science investor and Future Planet Capital, a global innovation fund.