World’s largest university-partnered venture firm celebrates fifth birthday

Morgan Sindall Construction Oxford University

Oxford Sciences & Innovation (OSI) – the world’s largest university-partnered venture firm”, is celebrating its fifth birthday. Over the last five years the company has raised more than £600 million investment in life sciences, AI and software, healthcare, and deep tech knowledge and ideas coming out of the University of Oxford.

The investment has created new companies taking on challenges like nuclear fusion, quantum computing and developing treatments and cures for infectious diseases.

When an Oxford academic sets up a company, or “spin-out”, the university takes a 50 per cent stake. Half of that stake is given to OSI.

OSI’s first investment was in Oxford Flow, which designs and manufactures innovative pressure control equipment using technology developed at Oxford University.

In June this year, OSI invested again, alongside a further seven parties, enabling Oxford Flow to raise a further £8.45 million to fuel the company’s expansion across all markets and oil and gas product development.

Oxford Flow’s new innovation, a stemless valve design, has been shortlisted for an SPE Offshore Achievement Award in the Emerging Technology category. The winners will be announced on Friday August 14.

Other OSI portfolio companies include life sciences companies Evox therapeutics and Vaccitech. In July, Vaccitech, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing immunotherapies to treat and prevent infectious diseases and cancer, announced that in trials, its Covid-19 vaccine produces strong immune response. The vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, now known as AZN1222, was co-invented by Vaccitech and Oxford University’s Jenner Institute.

Other OSI investments include health tech company Caristo Diagnostics, which has developed a novel technology which transforms the diagnostic accuracy of routine coronary CT angiograms, a test used to identify patients with suspected heart disease.

OSI also invests in deeptech companies, such as Brill Power (a clean-tech start-up that makes lithium ion batteries more reliable) and sustainable), First Light Fusion which is seeking to achieve nuclear fusion power commercially and Yasa, which is developing small and light electric motors and controllers for the automotive, industrial, marine and aerospace industries; software business DiffBlue and AI image analysis company Zegami.

Since it launched in 2015, OSI has raised £611 patient capital from blue chip shareholders, and invested £235 million. It has had 80 companies in its portfolio and tripled the rate of spin out companies rate from the University over the previous 20 years.

More than 900 companies have been created within its portfolio companies.

Earlier this year, some high-profile boardroom resignations made national headlines when Patrick Pichette resigned as chair, four months later he was appointed chairman of the social media channel Twitter. Following Patrick’s departure in February, Chris Chambers was made Executive Chairman. He is currently chairman of Lonrho, the African conglomerate.

The previous November, OSI’s chief executive Charles Conn stepped down after less than a year. The current interim CEO is Jim Wilkinson, who was previously the fund’s chief financial officer.