Government funding boost for early stage high-tech companies in the UK

Photo shows: products being developed by The Electrospinning Company in Oxford
Electrospinning Company

UKRI, the government organisation which directs the UK’s research and innovation funding, has provided a £10million funding boost to the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund, supporting early-stage businesses arising from world-class scientific research in the UK.

UKI2S is a £37 million seed fund that invests in early-stage, high-risk, long-term capital for high potential, early-stage businesses.

The new £10 million funding injection enables the UKI2S to increase the number of new UK businesses it can support.

Typically, these early-stage, deep-tech businesses operate in areas as diverse as new antibiotics, research into Alzheimer’s disease, ‘green’ chemicals and airport security.

The fund is backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and UKRI partners (the Science and Technology Facilities Council, Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council and Natural Environment Research Council) and several other public sector organisations.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “From food solutions for growing populations to high-tech materials for life-saving medical devices, it’s exciting to see breakthroughs in UK laboratories being translated to profitable businesses which offer solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.

“By funding these projects, we maximise the impact of British innovation, create high-skilled jobs across the UK, and cement our position as a global science superpower.”

To date, the fund has already invested £19 million in 70 companies, which have gone on to attract more than £640 million in private investment, created more than 700 high-value jobs and have spent more than £300 million on R&D.

While these start-up companies all have compelling ideas for new technology, they also have technical risk and require funding support for prototyping, testing and trials. The funding is designed to support them through this process towards commercialisation and success in a global market.

The seed fund is independently managed by venture capital specialist Midven.

Andrew Muir, Director of the fund manager Midven (now part of Future Planet Capital) and Fund Principal of the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund, said: “More than 75 percent of the ‘deep science’ companies we have backed would almost certainly not have got off the ground without our initial funding, advice and assistance.

“Those companies are now worth around £1billion and have created hundreds of highly skilled jobs. The UK’s entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and so this additional funding is great news for the next generation of founders.”

Recent examples of thriving companies supported by UKI2S include:

Didcot-based The Electrospinning Company (TECL)

A spin-out of STFC, TECL is a leader in the development and manufacture of nanofibrous biomaterials for use in tissue regenerative devices.  UKI2S has been involved with TECL for many years. It helped found the Company in 2010 and was the first and only investor for almost three years. The company now has 14 employees and global clients. Based at the Harwell Campus, it supplies the first electrospun material to be incorporated into a FDA-approved medical device.

In the last month the company has completed a £4.5 million fundraising round, led by US materials science company Confluent Medical Technologies Inc. as a strategic investor. The proprietary Electrospinning process will be used to create biomedical textiles, such as for heart valve frames. The company’s CEO, Ann Kramer, is recognised as a leading entrepreneur and is an Ambassador for ‘Women in Innovation.

Didcot-based Helix Technologies

UK antenna developer Helix Technologies recently raised £500,000 (€575,000) to get its resilient, precision Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) design into production.

The funding now enables Helix to strengthen its engineering team, based at the Harwell Campus, build its IP portfolio and launch its first commercial precision antenna products in mid-2021. It will also provide the foundation from which Helix can raise further investment to start scale-up to mass production for applications such as driverless cars.