Jobs, funding and turnover growth add up to a record year for SETsquared Bristol

January 31, 2020

SETsquared Bristol, the world-leading incubator, is celebrating another record year with the combined turnover of its member businesses reaching a new high along with strong jobs growth and investment levels.

During 2019 SETsquared Bristol, based in the city’s Engine Shed innovation hub, also strengthened its commitment to diversity in the tech sector and helping to overcome barriers to entry for under-represented groups. 

The University of Bristol-led incubator provides expertise, business support and a connected community for its resident and virtual members.

Its programme includes coaching, mentoring, workshops, events, business review panels and investment readiness training.

Its results for 2019 reveal that during the year its 80-plus tech start-ups and scale-up members collectively achieved revenues of more than £58m. They also created 240 jobs, while some 33 members secured total funding of £64m to take them to the next stage of their growth.

Among the outstanding successes of the year were:

  • Immersive Labs, the cyber security firm founded by a former GCHQ researcher, which raised $8m (£6,2m) in series A funding and $40mhh in series B funding to further develop its innovative training system that uses computer game techniques to fight real-life threats
  • Blu Wireless, which received £12m to boost the rollout of its processor for 5G chips
  • TravelLocal, the specialist firm that connects travellers with local experts in destinations around the world, took its funding to more than £8m, including from Channel 4’s Commercial Growth Fund.

Earlier stage investment successes included:

  • LettUs Grow, the vertical and indoor farming innovator, raised more than £3m over two investment rounds
  • University of Bristol spin-out Actuation Lab was awarded £300,000 in Innovate UK funding to develop actuators that survive in the harshest of conditions. 

Actuation Lab CEO Simon Bates, pictured, right, with colleagues Tom Llewellyn-Jones and Michael Dicker, said: “We have received fantastic support from the University of Bristol and the SETsquared network. Being members has dramatically improved our approach to building our business and has provided us with many opportunities to upskill personally too.”

SETsquared Bristol’s commitment to supporting tech businesses from all backgrounds and communities to stimulate inclusive growth resulted in an increase in women tech founders/CEO members by 17% and BAME founders/CEOs by 14% last year.

The incubator launched a number of new initiatives in 2019 to accelerate overcoming barriers to diversity in tech, including Back her Business, a pre-incubation programme for women-formed businesses, and the Breakthrough Bursary, funded by SETsquared alumni, providing three annual bursaries to BAME-led tech start-ups.

SETsquared Bristol interim centre director Steve Edwards said: “2019 was a great year for SETsquared Bristol and its members, as well as the wider ecosystem.

“We’ve seen more investment into the area’s rich and diverse tech start-up scene and even more impressive turnover revenues from our members. We look forward to evolving the incubator’s programme and expanding on our inclusivity projects over the year ahead.”

SETsquared Bristol is one of the five SETsquared centres named ‘Global #1 University Business Incubator’ in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

The SETsquared Partnership brings together the research-intensive universities of Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey with a mission is to help turn innovative sparks into a thriving, commercial businesses.


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