12 universities team up to accelerate social ventures

A new, multi-million investment fund will support ventures from across the partner universities that aim to benefit society and/or the environment

Twelve UK universities have joined forces to launch an investment fund supporting social ventures.

The 10-year, multi-million-pound Impact 12 fund will support social ventures – ie businesses with a clear social and/or environmental mission – created within the 12 participating universities across the UK.

The fund was developed, and will be managed, by Edinburgh-based impact investor and responsible finance provider Social Investment Scotland (SIS), whose CEO Alastair Davis called it “a new and exciting vehicle for helping to support and fund some of the very best mission-driven businesses spinning out of universities’ research labs and accelerators.”

SIS will work in partnership with the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the University of Northampton, Coventry University and eight universities comprising the Midlands Innovation Commercialisation of Research Accelerator (MICRA) initiative (Aston, Birmingham, Cranfield, Keele, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick). Oxford University Innovation leads the consortium.

The social ventures supported by our 12 universities will be at the forefront of creating change and finding solutions to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – Professor Stephen J Toope, University of Cambridge

Impact 12 will support social ventures with tailored financial support, including equity investment and debt. It will launch later this year with an initial fundraising target of £8 million, raised from among alumni networks as well as the wider impact investor community. This will support up to 15 social ventures from across the partner universities, with both seed and follow-on funding over the next decade.

According to the annual Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)-Ross Support for Education Survey, philanthropic giving to UK and Irish higher education institutions reached £1.3 billion in 2019-20 despite the Covid-19 pandemic – remaining above the £1 billion mark for the third year in a row.

“Cambridge is proud to join forces with sister universities to launch Impact 12, a powerful partnership for social ventures to expand their networks and scale up their work,” said Professor Stephen J Toope (pictured), vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge. “The social ventures supported by our 12 universities will be at the forefront of creating change and finding solutions to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

Professor Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford said: “I am delighted to see the growing emphasis on social ventures. Over the past three years, 11 companies targeting six of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have emerged from the four divisions of the university. Combining applied research with sustainable economics they address some of the critical issues of the day. Impact 12 will align Oxford’s research and innovation expertise with the community experience of our partner institutions and advance the progress of social ventures far beyond Oxfordshire’s borders.”

Professor Nick Petford, vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton


Professor Nick Petford, vice-chancellor, University of Northampton added: “Our mission at the university is focused on ‘Transforming Lives and Inspiring Change’, a mantra that will be further bolstered by our work together on Impact 12.”

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