Northern universities unveil £500 million technology spin-out plan

Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield join forces to attract private investment

April 26, 2021
High-tech manufacturing - northern universities form alliance
Source: iStock

Three research-intensive universities have launched a new company that aims to attract half a billion pounds of investment to support university spin-outs in the north of England.

Northern Gritstone, which has been created by the universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield, will focus on how intellectual property created within the three institutions can be transformed into a variety of successful companies, as well as support existing businesses linked to Russell Group members.

The project, which aims to be a key part of the government’s levelling-up agenda to promote economic growth in the north, follows the success of the similar Northern Triangle Initiative, which saw the universities come together in 2018 and secure a £5 million award from Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund. By 2020, the scheme had supported about 20 commercially viable projects across the three universities.

If successful, up to £500 million raised from strategic corporate partners, institutional investors and qualifying individuals would allow Northern Gritstone to provide funding for a range of companies across areas such as advanced materials and manufacturing, health and life sciences, artificial intelligence and data sciences, the company said.

Luke Georghiou, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Manchester, where he is responsible for business engagement and commercialisation activities at the institution, described the company as a “game-changer for investment and commercialisation of university-led research, ideas and IP in the UK”.

Jane Madeley, chief financial officer at the University of Leeds, who will represent the university as a non-executive director on Northern Gritstone’s board, said the lack of capital investment has sometimes limited the ability to translate university research into successful companies.

“Leeds and our fellow founding universities are technological powerhouses, pursuing research and innovation that has the potential to help tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the world – Northern Gritstone will go a long way to help release this pent-up potential,” said Ms Madeley.

Dave Petley, vice-president for innovation at the University of Sheffield, said the three universities were at 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,” said Professor Petley.

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Reader's comments (1)

Almost the re-foundation of Victoria University except that it excluded Sheffield originally!