University Spin-outs – The Golden Triangle and Beyond

The University of Dundee has been named the UK’s top university for creating successful spinouts, according to a report from VC firm Octopus Ventures.

The analysis considered multiple factors and not just the total number of spinouts produced. The number of patents, level of commercialisation and exits were among the other factors assessed, with Exscientia’s £2.2bn public listing on the Nasdaq helping the Scottish university secure the top spot.

“The main foundations of our success are world-leading life and biomedical sciences research, and innovative researchers,” said Dr David McBeth, VP of enterprise and economic transformation at the University of Dundee.

“At a time when there is a lot of chatter about standardising spinout arrangements, we pride ourselves on fostering great relationships with investors and founding teams, while treating each company according to its individual circumstances.”

Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Cambridge came in second and third place, respectively. They were followed by Cardiff University in fourth, and University College London in fifth.

Separate research from data firm Beauhurst found that the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge are top for producing spinouts. However, using Octopus Ventures’ criteria, universities based outside the so-called ‘golden triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge accounted for six of the top 10.

Octopus Ventures’ report said there is a lack of lab space for deep tech spinouts that is hindering growth, and that there is a funding gap for spinouts.

Dr Amy Nommeots-Nomm, deep tech investor at Octopus Ventures, said: “Sustained funding for research and innovation, and consistent support for spinouts is vital if the UK’s universities are to continue generating globally impactful technologies.”

Beauhurst’s research also revealed that University of Manchester and Bristol are the fastest-growing spinout creators. Manchester and Bristol have the highest growth in the number of new spinouts in the UK, a report has revealed.

Manchester is home to 58 spinouts, up from 52 last year, while 47 spinouts are based in Bristol, up from 42 – the highest proportional growth in spinout creation. The data, compiled by research firm Beauhurst, shows that spinout growth is expanding beyond the ‘golden triangle’ of universities in London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Edinburgh is home to 78 spinouts, with the report citing the city’s “strong research institutions, funding ties, and access to top talent”. Recent spinouts from the University of Manchester include Apini Therapeutics, AI company Imperagen and online water management platform Nexsys.

It comes amid a Treasury-issued review into the UK’s spinout landscape to identify best practice for universities and investors. In July, business think tank Entreprenuers Network published a report that university ownership of intellectual property is hampering spinout growth.

University ownership of research-based intellectual property is holding back the growth of British spinout companies, according to a business think tank. In a new report from the Entrepreneurs Network, the group stated that a radical rethink of how academic research is commercialised is needed to achieve the UK Government science and technology “superpower” goals.

The report highlights a model of “professor privilege”, in which academic staff retain full ownership of their research, would act as an incentive to commercialise intellectual property (IP) developed in their work at universities. As it stands, universities typically own significant equity and IP rights for start-ups founded by staff.

(Source: Octopus Ventures / Beauhurst / Entrepreneurs Network / UKTN)

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