“Our shareholders are not like venture capital investors,” says Jim Wilkinson, the veteran CFO now steering the finances of Oxford Sciences Innovation, aka the largest university fund in the world. “This is a very different model which is all about encouraging patient capital.” Last month, FPB sat down with Jim to find out how OSI is putting that capital to work.
Last week, The Rise of British University Venture Funds - Part One explored the emergence of a new generation of UK institutions focused on innovation investing. When it comes to funding for university spin-outs, the country has progressed from being one of the world's laggards to one of its front-runners in just two years. It is now home to the world's largest university venture investor, Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), and an expanding roster of similar entities.
In Part Two, we take a closer look at OSI and its Cambridge counterpart, Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC). Founded in 2015 and 2013 respectively, these two entities are now setting the tone for investment in the country's university clusters. They are also attracting the attention of sophisticated investors worldwide. With an evergreen structure enabling a more long-term horizon than conventional venture capital funds, their recent fundraising rounds have brought leading sovereign wealth funds and investment managers knocking alongside the more familiar UK university investors.
British venture: immature or ahead of the curve?
The road from laboratory to industry is a time consuming and long one, but the rise of a raft of new University Venture Funds (UVFs) in Britain is helping to transform the innovation landscape. The country is now home to an increasing number of firms committed to turning innovative ideas from academic organisations and associated clusters into world class companies.
In January 2017, the recently incarnated British Innovation Fund (sub-advised by Future Planet Capital and Milltrust Agricultural Investments) executed its first direct investment in a growth-stage technology business. PragmatIC Printing made waves in its early years, winning multiple start-up awards. Yet, as CEO and co-founder Scott White tells Future Planet, fostering serious innovation can be a slow-burn.
Innovation. We have the money. We have the minds. Now we need the Mojo.
Douglas Hansen-Luke, the Executive Chairman of Future Planet Capital, explores how Britain can maximise the effectiveness of it's leading institutions and innovators.
Following the Government's commitment to increasing spending on innovation and technology it's clear that we have the money, and with leading innovation centres including universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, it's clear we have the minds.
However, do we have the mojo?