A new university investment company aims to become a northern powerhouse for academic spin-outs, creating businesses based on intellectual property developed in three Russell Group institutions.
Northern Gritstone was founded by the universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield.
Together, this cross-Pennine trio has a combined research income of more than £650 million per annum and produces one in 11 of all patents and one in five of all IP licenses filed by higher education institutions (HEIs) in the UK.
The new company will fund spin-out enterprises based on intellectual property developed by the three institutions using external capital raised from investors.
The three universities created the Northern Triangle Initiative in 2018 and secured a £5 million award from the Research England Connecting Capabilities Fund (CCF), which supported the launch of 20 commercial ventures.
The combination of a globally significant cluster of highly innovative activity and large-scale investment power will drive the rapid scale-up of firms at the forefront of sectors based on technologies
– Prof Dave Petley, University of Sheffield
The company promises investors “unprecedented access to all academics and research faculties across the three universities”. The universities will share all owned IP with Northern Gritstone for investment opportunities. It aims to raise £500 million from investors to get its activities underway.
Prof Dave Petley, vice-president for innovation at the University of Sheffield, said the commercialisation venture was “the beginning of a project that has immense potential for everyone, from investors to researchers”.
“The combination of a globally significant cluster of highly innovative activity and large-scale investment power will drive the rapid scale-up of firms at the forefront of sectors based on technologies such as health and life sciences, AI and data analytics, advanced materials and manufacturing,” Prof Petley said.
Prof Luke Georghiou, the deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Manchester, said the university hoped Northern Gritstone would “play a key role in the government’s levelling up agenda” and prove “a game-changer for investment and commercialisation of university-led research”.
Jane Madeley, the University of Leeds’ chief financial officer, blamed a “lack of capital investment” for limiting the capability of the three universities to commercialise their research. She predicted that Northern Gritstone “will go a long way to help release this pent-up potential”.