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25 July 2017

The only way is up – a promising future beckons

Several new funds have been launched each month, and there is no reason to assume that trend will not continue

Author: Thierry Heles, editor

When 2016 ended, people, particularly in the western world, may have breathed a sigh of relief at the idea of putting behind them a year that included multiple geopolitical upsets and countless celebrity deaths. But as Global University Venturing noted it in its annual review at the time, none of those things had made any particular impact on the innovation ecosystem – if anything, tech transfer leaders all looked ahead full of optimism.

So where do we stand, halfway through this new year? As our data review in this month’s issue reveals, the beginning of the year did not generally cause any significant shocks. It will, however, be interesting to see just how long the uptick in activity from the end of May will last – the expectation would certainly be that, once the summer break starts properly, dealflow will die down. But how much will it resume in September?

Some in the university ecosystem will arguably be more in need of cocktails on a Mediterranean beach than others – though whether they will get any rest remains to be seen. Case in point – the continuing hostile takeover saga of Touchstone Innovations, the commercialisation firm spun out of Imperial College London, by its peer IP Group will undoubtedly continue to be on many people’s minds.

And those geopolitical upsets from last year may yet come back to haunt us, too. During an informal discussion at this year’s gala dinner at the GUV:Fusion conference, some tech transfer leaders – some whose staff are a third EU citizens – voiced their concern about Brexit negotiations, explaining their worry about how this will affect them.

If UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who just managed to hold on to power after losing her party’s majority in last month’s general election, has her way, those EU staff will be turned into second-class citizens who do not even have the right to vote in local elections. Of course, European leaders were less than enthused by that proposal and the odds of May surviving many more months as head of government are also uncertain.

Yet already, some sectors – notably healthcare – have seen very significant drops in immigration and indeed an exodus of existing EU staff back to the continent – it is at the very least doubtful whether tech transfer offices will prove an exception.

Meanwhile, in the US, universities might also be wondering whether your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving’s fight to reduce immigration from certain countries will have an impact – on a macro-level, it is too soon to know.

Globally, the wheels keep turning. As the data review notes, several new funds have been launched each month and there is no reason to assume that trend will not continue throughout the rest of the year.

And for Global University Venturing, the first half of 2017 has been a successful six months, with the GUV Awards taking centre stage at the gala dinner, renowned architect Lord Norman Foster helping select the winner of the Future Planet Capital award and thought leaders from all four corners of the world in attendance at GUV:Fusion.

This magazine, too, has had a good start to 2017, relaunching with an unprecedented, in-depth data analysis of several years’ worth of university venturing deals in May just in time for the conference. It, too, will take a break over the summer before returning for the new academic year.

What will the rest of the year bring? As author Ray Bradbury once wrote: “People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.”

If anyone knows how to build the future, it is you, our esteemed readers. So do not listen too much to the doom and gloom – even at the top, as Simon Bond of incubator SetSquared said at GUV:Fusion, the only way is up. 

Copyright Mawsonia Limited 2010. Please don´t cut articles from or the PDF and redistribute by email or post to the web without written permission.

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