Bristol innovators demonstrate the value of university spin-outs following UK government review

December 1, 2023

A government review recommending better support for university spin-out businesses has been welcomed by academics in Bristol, a city with a strong track record in the field.

The much-anticipated independent report recognised the role played by spin-outs in the UK’s economic growth, particularly in the tech sectors.

It also looked at best practice in the UK and in successful spin-out ecosystems around the world to come up with its 11 recommendations, which included improving access to support and early-stage funding.

The University of Bristol has a rich history of research commercialisation and has been spinning out companies since the 1990s – typically between four and six a year.

It has proved particularly fertile territory for quantum computing – helping generate one of the UK’s largest clusters in the fast-growing sector – as well as artificial intelligence, clean energy and health tech.

This activity has helped propel it to sixth place in the UK univeristy spin-out rankings.

Among the university’s spin-outs are semiconductor chip firm Xmos, which had a turnover of $24m last year and has its own spin-out, Graphcore, and Scarlet Therapuetics, which has created new technology to develop red blood cells that carry additional proteins within them to provide therapeutic benefits that can reach all parts of the body.

University of Bristol associate pro vice-chancellor for enterprise and innovation Prof Michele Barbour – herself a spin-out founder – said the report highlighted why these companies were thriving in the city and bringing significant social and economic benefits with them.

“The report identifies a number of very useful recommendations for creating a thriving ecosystem for spin-out companies, and for supporting the academic founders whose research gives rise to them.

“We welcome the review and the greater consistency, transparency and cooperation across the sector that it seeks to create.”

University of Bristol vice-chancellor Prof Evelyn Welch added: “Spin-outs are an excellent way to maximise the impact of the university’s outstanding research while creating new jobs, economic growth, and significant social benefits.

“As a university and a city, Bristol is one of the best places to create and grow a company.

“We are committed to making the processes involved as transparent and seamless as possible and welcome the government’s recommendations.”

University of Bristol alumnus Harry Destecroix, who founded and later sold pharma spin-out Ziylo as well as opening the city’s two Science Creates incubators, said over the past five years a number of game-changing firms had emerged from the university, catalysed by its research excellence.

“From quantum to AI through to engineering biology, the deep-tech – as well as the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including venture capitalists, dedicated incubators and accelerators – has been thriving and is starting to be globally recognised. And it is only just getting started,” he added.

Other University of Bristol spin-outs include quantum firms KETS, QLM Technology and Phasecraft, Purespring Therapeutics, which has developed tech to advance gene therapies for the treatment of chronic renal diseases, and Inductosense, which has developed a cost-effective ultrasonic sensing system for monitoring internal corrosion.

Recommendations in the report include:

  • Accelerating towards innovation-friendly university policies that all parties, including investors, should adhere to where they are underpinned by guidance co-developed between investors, founders, and universities,
  • Recognising that founders need access to support from individuals and organisations with experience of operating successful high-tech start-ups,
  • Increasing government funding for proof-of-concept funds to develop confidence in the concept prior to spinning-out,
  • Collecting more data and transparency on spin-outs through a national register of spin-outs, and universities publishing more information about their typical deal terms.

Comments are closed.


Reach tens of thousands of senior business people across Bristol for just £120 a month. Email for more information.