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26 September 2017

The future looks brighter than ever

September issue editorial from Thierry Heles, editor, Global University Venturing.

Author: Thierry Heles, editor

The university venturing world has started the new academic year with a spring in its step. It may have been a quiet summer, as they usually are, but the next few months promise to be eventful. UK-based commercialisation firm IP Group has, as of September 18, secured the backing of 96.5% of shareholders in its peer Touchstone Innovations, spun out from Imperial College London, for a takeover that the latter’s board has so far rejected. IP Group has extended its offer until October 6, so at the time of writing everything is still to play for.

Elsewhere in the UK, University of Edinburgh’s tech transfer office has completed a rebranding exercise to Edinburgh Innovations – joining a growing list of TTOs that have updated their identity over the past year. It will be interesting to see how the refreshed look will inspire the office.

Other parts of Europe have been busy preparing for the new academic year. University of Zurich, for example, has been collecting money for its Sfr20m ($21m) UZH Life Sciences Fund which is set to back life sciences spinouts and is receiving match funding from Novartis Venture Fund, the corporate venturing arm of local pharmaceutical firm Novartis.

In Austria, a place not known as a prolific spinout generator, the government has launched €15m ($18m) scheme Spin-Off Austria that aims to support faculty looking to set up a business by offering up to €50,000 in capital as well as up to 18 months of mentoring, coaching and training.

That is in addition to the Institute of Science and Technology Austria and an unnamed subsidiary of investment management firm Lansdowne Partners agreeing to establish €5m technology seed fund IST Cube.

In early July, University of St Gallen had already launched a quality-seal program to publicise its spinout activity and offer portfolio companies access to a wide range of resources at the institution’s Centre for Entrepreneurship.

Austria, it would seem, has taken a long hard look at its ecosystem and decided to race up the league table straight to the top. It will be interesting to see just how well it manages to do that and what else the country has up its sleeve – especially as it prepares for a general election next month that could influence future government policy.

The same buzz is palpable in other corners of the world. University of Melbourne and RMIT University put their weight behind an A$80m ($64m) incubator that is expected to provide a significant boost to Melbourne startups. The first cohort is set to include companies developing products around intelligent clothing, smart alarms and third-party brain MRI imaging.

In Canada, commercialisation firm Mars Innovation took a leaf out of Oxford’s book and launched Lab150, a collaboration with drug discovery company Evotec that will drive research translation for projects emerging from Mars Innovation’s 15 member institutions. Evotec previously helped established University of Oxford’s Lab282 in November last year.

And in the US, the Engine’s fund now stands at $200m, including a $25m commitment from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Engine, launched by MIT but not managed by the university, hopes to build a startup ecosystem in Boston for companies operating in particularly challenging sectors, such as aerospace, biotech and renewable energy.

The wheels have been set in motion and while the patient capital review in the UK – the subject of in-depth reports in this issue – may be causing some headaches, tech transfer offices everywhere are looking at a future that looks brighter than ever.

The Global University Venturing team, which incidentally has also grown this summer, is excited to be part of the journey ahead. 

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

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