Nine in 10 academic spinouts led by men, Royal Academy of Engineering reveals

The Academy will soon launch an EDI Toolkit to tackle what it says is a “a stark gender imbalance” in UK science

More than nine in 10 academic spinout companies are led by men, latest figures collected by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAENG) show.

Science minister George Freeman said the figures demonstrated “there is significant progress to be made in improving diversity in British science”.

The statistics come from the RAENG spotlight on spinouts report, for which the second edition was published on 4 April.

All-male teams lead 92% of academic spinouts and founded 86%. RAENG described the figures as showing “a stark gender imbalance”, little altered since the first report of its kind was published in 2021.

There are currently 1,130 active spinouts in the UK as of January. Investment in spinout companies nearly doubled since last year, reaching a record £2.54 billion across 389 deals. After years of macroeconomic disruption in the wake of Covid-19 and Brexit, RAENG says the financial outlook for equity investments has rallied, with average deals reaching £6.7 million last year.

Pharmaceuticals was the highest-performing sector, followed by research tools and reagents. Top emerging sectors included artificial intelligence, precision medicine, and eHealth. While only half of all startups survive more than five years, the average lifespan for an academic spinout is almost nine years. The University of Oxford topped the list of universities by their number of spinouts, with 193 firms generated since 2011.

Our first-of-its-kind R&D People & Culture Strategy, identif[ies] the urgency of ensuring our science and innovation ecosystem welcomes a broad range of perspectives, people and ideas
– George Freeman, science minister

Said science minister George Freeman: “This report highlights the vital role university spinouts play in our innovation economy – raising a record £2.54 billion last year creating the companies, technologies and jobs of tomorrow.

“The success of these companies is key to the UK’s ambitions to become a Science Superpower, increase R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP, and achieve sustainable growth, job creation and prosperity across the country.”

Freeman said more was to be done to improve the diversity of science in the UK. “That is why we have published our first-of-its-kind R&D People & Culture Strategy, identifying the urgency of ensuring our science and innovation ecosystem welcomes a broad range of perspectives, people and ideas.”

Maria Dramalioti-Taylor, the managing partner at Beacon Capital LLP and a member of the RAENG enterprise committee and project steering group, said: “It’s our hope that recognising IP and commercialisation successes – and failures – will lead to progressive improvement within the spinout sector, including the encouragement of leadership diversity among spinouts. We want to ensure that the voices of excellent academic entrepreneurs influence wider debate and future research commercialisation policy.”

The Academy says it will soon produce a “practical guide for entrepreneurs wishing to spin out from their universities” based on the findings from its Enterprise Hub, which was launched in 2013 and has helped 290 researchers, recent graduates and SME leaders to start and scale-up businesses. RAENG will also launch “an ambitious new EDI Toolkit” to support diverse and inclusive cultures to permeate the sector.


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