A dozen universities join forces to launch Impact Investment Fund led by Oxford University Innovation

Morgan Sindall Construction Oxford University

Twelve leading universities have joined forces to create an impact investment fund, Impact 12, to support mission-led university ventures. Oxford University Innovation will lead the consortium.

The universities, which include Oxford, Cambridge, Coventry and Warwick, will support the 10-year multi-million-pound fund to back social ventures created within the twelve participating universities across the UK. The fund will support ventures motivated by beneficial social or environmental impact, rather than solely by profit.

Impact 12 has been developed and will be managed by Social Investment Scotland (SIS), an impact investor and responsible finance provider based in Edinburgh, in partnership with the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Northampton, Coventry and eight universities comprising the MICRA Project (Aston, Birmingham, Cranfield, Keele, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick).

Impact 12’s aim is to bring positive change, to people and places, by accelerating the development and success of impact-led social ventures spun out of universities. It will support social ventures with innovative finance tailored to their needs, including equity investment and debt. The fund will also provide access to timely and expert mission-aligned finance and impact support.

The fund will launch later this year with an initial fundraising target of £8 million. The capital raised will be deployed to support up to fifteen social ventures from across the partner universities, with both seed and follow-on funding over the next ten years.

Impact 12 will tap into the growing interest in impact investing and the rise of social enterprise strategies within universities. It will fundraise among alumni networks as well as the wider impact investor community. Figures from the annual CASE-Ross Support for Education Survey showed that new philanthropic funds secured by UK and Irish higher education institutions reached £1.3 billion in 2019-20 – the third year running that new funds secured from philanthropic sources have remained higher than £1 billion since the report’s inception in 2000.

With mission-driven companies increasingly out-performing more traditional business models, funding from Impact 12 will help meet a clear need for early-stage finance among university social ventures, which often lack the financial support of traditional university spinouts or start-ups.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford said: “I am delighted to see the growing emphasis on social ventures. Over the past three years, 11 companies targeting six of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have emerged from the four Divisions of the University. Combining applied research with sustainable economics they address some of the critical issues of the day. Impact 12 will align Oxford’s research and innovation expertise with the community experience of our partner institutions and advance the progress of social ventures far beyond Oxfordshire’s borders.”

Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge said: “Cambridge is proud to join forces with sister universities to launch Impact 12, a powerful partnership for social ventures to expand their networks and scale up their work. The social ventures supported by our 12 universities will be at the forefront of creating change and finding solutions to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

Alastair Davis, CEO, SIS said: “At a time when global economies are still suffering the impacts of the pandemic, Impact 12 provides a new and exciting vehicle for helping to support and fund some of the very best mission-driven businesses spinning out of universities’ research labs and accelerators. For SIS Ventures, this fund also marks a new opportunity to realise our ambition of entering new markets where we feel able to support impact creation. Through our collaboration with these twelve universities, we believe we can create considerable impact by supporting mission-aligned businesses which have the potential to be the cornerstone of our economy in years to come.”