University College London has launched a new £100m investment fund to back university spin-outs developing medical research as well as artificial intelligence (AI) projects.
The new UCL Technology Fund is backed by British Patient Capital, as well as UCL itself and other new and existing investors. It will be managed by London-headquartered investment firm AlbionVC.
“There will definitely be a biomedical focus,” said Anne Lane, the chief executive of UCL’s commercialisation company. The fund will also back AI businesses as well as companies developing new quantum computing technology.
The fund does not anticipate any problems in finding medical investments following the coronavirus pandemic, said Andrew Elder, a deputy managing partner at AlbionVC.
“We think it’s still going to be a very good place to be investing. Scientific research is not going to be negatively impacted,” he said.
UCL previously ran a smaller investment fund that resulted in two of the companies it backed going public in New York. Another investment from the fund, UCL spin-out Bloomsbury AI, was acquired by Facebook for up to $30m (£22m) in 2018.
The new fund comes after research published in February found that investment into UK spin-outs dropped in 2019.
A report compiled by analytics firm Beauhurst found that 334 investment deals were made into spin-outs last year, down from 358 in 2018. The total amount invested also dropped to £1.24bn, down from £1.38bn in the previous year.
Investors warned at the time that start-ups launching out of universities struggle to grow and find outside investors, getting stuck in a so-called “valley of death”.
The managers of UCL’s new fund, however, do not share the same concerns.
“I don’t think that’s going to be a barrier for us,” Ms Lane said. “We’ve got a very strong pipeline at UCL and we haven’t had any problems in raising funds. We’ve been able to get the early stage investments and then had follow-on investments as well.”