SETsquared Bristol tech companies raise record investment

Neciah Dorh of FluoretiQ

Companies that are part of SETsquared Bristol, the University of Bristol-led tech incubator, attracted record investment of £98.8 million in 2021, with £77.9 million of this raised by companies who have spun out of the University.

The total raised was equivalent to 15 per cent of the total £636 million secured by Bristol businesses in 2021, according to new figures released this week.

Based at the city’s Engine Shed innovation hub, SETsquared Bristol supports the growth of technology startups, helping them move from initial ideas into commercial viability.

More than half of its 80 companies raised investment in 2021, including university spin-out Ultraleap, who raised £60 million to further commercialise its revolutionary hand tracking and mid-air haptics, with other high level raises including other university spin-outs, Micrima, Zeetta Networks and Zentraxa.

The incubator also saw strong results in healthtech, with companies in this sector raising £11 million last year, as well as FinTech West which will see a further boost this year with the launch of a FinTech accelerator.

Further successes in 2021 saw its companies create 250 jobs, generate £29 million in revenues and achieve record numbers for leadership diversity.

SETsquared Bristol is a dedicated advocate of diversity in tech, with specific programmes, initiatives and events to encourage under-represented and minoritised groups into tech entrepreneurship.

Its work towards gender parity is paying off, with 45 per cent of the incubator’s 80 companies now being led by a women founder or C-Suite member.

Seventy per cent of the highest investment raises in 2021 came from its women-led companies, one of which was University of Bristol spin-out, KETS Quantum Security, which raised £3.1 million in 2021.

Caroline Clark, COO at KETS, said: “We were delighted to raise £3.1 million pre-series A last year, as well as to secure a £11.6 million grant to develop quantum-safe communications for the Modern Data Centre.

“As always, we can only do this with the support of our Bristol and broader quantum tech ecosystem, of which SETsquared continues to play a hugely significant role.”

SETsquared Bristol also runs initiatives to encourage under-represented ethnic groups to access business support, including its Breakthrough Bursary, now in its third year.

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic-led companies at the incubator increased to 24 per cent in 2021 – a figure representative of Bristol’s diverse population.

University of Bristol healthtech spin-out, FluoretiQ, a Breakthrough Bursary awardee, has raised over £2 million to date.

Neciah Dorh, co-founder and CEO at FluoretiQ (pictured) said: “SETsquared’s Entrepreneur in Residence sessions have been really beneficial to refine our strategy. The incubator has also widened our network, ensuring our developments can be heard by those who need to hear them.”

Marty Reid, director at SETsquared Bristol, said: “It’s amazing to see our companies’ hard work celebrated in these record-breaking stats. At SETsquared we have an important role in bringing investment into the region and it is vital that diverse business leaders get a proportionate share of the equity. We’re thrilled to see such a breadth of diverse founders finding success in our programmes, though we recognise that there is much more to do.”

Going forward, SETsquared Bristol says it will continue its diversity commitments with a focus on access to funding and investment.

SETsquared Bristol is a University of Bristol-led tech incubator, supporting founders to grow their businesses and make an impact in the world.

It has incubated over 300 companies to date, with over £626 million raised.

It supports its companies with bespoke business support, skills and training, an expert network and community of startups and scaleups.

It has been named ‘Hottest Accelerator in Europe’ at The Europas Awards and has three times been awarded ‘Global #1 University Business Incubator’ as part of the SETsquared Partnership of six centres.