SETsquared’s Shard showcase serves as launchpad for two new innovation projects

November 28, 2014

Innovation incubator SETsquared, which is backed by the University of Bristol, has unveiled two new projects – a £3.2m programme to speed up the commercialisation of university research and a partnership with academic health science networks to help NHS patients.

The double boost was announced as it staged a showcase of more than 20 of its most promising technology start-ups to bid for a collective £30m of investment.

The event took place in front of a live audience of investors in The Shard in London, Europe’s tallest building and featured Bristol firms Ultrahaptics, which is developing technology that uses ultrasound to create the feeling of touch in mid-air, and VUiN, a video-on-demand service for Bollywood movies.

The 22nd floor of the iconic landmark was turned into a real life Dragons’ Den as SETsquared held its annual investment showcase. The event was also the launchpad for the £3.2m ‘iCURE’ project which teams SETsquared with HEFCE and Innovate UK.

It aims to ‘bridge the valley of death’ identified by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. Research from the University of Bristol and others in the SETsquared network could be commercialised and turned into successful businesses faster than ever before.

The project announced by universities and science minister Greg Clark will help address issues raised in the Government’s response to the committee’s inquiry last year, including the importance of innovation by universities in managing intellectual property and of attention to the availability of ‘proof of concept’ funding.

HEFCE, Innovate UK and SETsquared will work together on a pilot to tackle these issues and help accelerate research being successfully commercialised and ‘spun out’ new high-potential companies.

Under the programme, early-stage researchers at the five SETsquared universities (Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey) will be given tailored training, mentoring and funds to speed up the commercialisation of their ideas, technologies and products. The project was inspired by Innovate UK’s review of a similar programme operated by the US National Science Foundation, and is funded by a £2.8m HEFCE cash injection and £400,000 from Innovate UK.

Greg Clark said: “Collaboration is the key to turning the best research into new businesses. We are proud that SETsquared is already Europe’s best incubator, and second in the world, which is why we are supporting this pilot scheme. It will provide skills, support and mentoring to help the UK’s best researchers turn their ideas into commercial success. This strengthens the UK’s position as the best place for science and technology research, and drives forward our economic growth.”

SETsquared board member and director of research and innovation services at the University of Southampton, Don Spalinger said that iCURE could commercialise university research faster than ever before, something that is vital for universities.

“Particularly in the field of technology, where everything evolves so fast, getting a product to market quickly can make the difference between creating a successful business and falling behind”, he said. “The flexibility of this programme and the way it is run will allow researchers to assess their markets much faster, meaning they can potentially seek investment or sell their ideas within just a few months.”

Also announced at the event was a revolutionary new programme that could lead to more effective and better value healthcare technologies benefitting patients quicker than ever.

It teams SETsquared with four Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN) in the South of England to help accelerate the faster adoption of cost effective innovation into healthcare across the region to benefit patients and the health economy.

In this first round, up to 300 participants will be offered access to seminars, three-day courses, tailored coaching and mentoring run by SETsquared.  

The AHSNs, created by the Government in 2013, bring together NHS, universities and industry to identify, test and roll out improvements to the health service.

Director of enterprise and translation, West of England AHSN, Lars Sundstrom, said: "This initiative will provide a major boost to innovation locally and is a great example of how AHSNs can work together to take advantage of local centres of excellence like SETsquared."

The programme will be available in the regions covered by the Kent, Surrey and Sussex, South West, Wessex and West of England AHSNs.

SETsquared staged the Shard event to showcase businesses providing technological solutions for everything from wrinkles to democratic voting. The firms pitched in front of a 250-strong audience, including those from Mercia Fund Management and Eden Ventures.

SETsquared businesses have raised some £60m in investment in the last 12 months and last night’s event aimed to boost that figure by putting start-ups face-to-face with angel investors, venture capitalists, high net worth individuals and self-certified sophisticated investors.

SETsquared innovation director Simon Bond said: “There were some incredibly strong pitches and while investment does take time we have already seen some promising conversations taking place between SETsquared start-ups and investors. We’re looking forward to these developing over the coming months and hope to report even more success stories from our programme.”

Over the last 12 years SETsquared has helped more than 1,000 businesses raise over £1bn in investment, figures that have contributed to it being named by the UBI as the top university business incubator in Europe and number two in the world.


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