UK universities join forces to create startup investment group

Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield universities form 'Northern Gritstone' to fund businesses borne from academic research

Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield universities have joined forces to launch an investment company that aims to help the commercialisation of university spin-offs and tech startups in the North of England. 

The firm, which is called Northern Gritstone, will fund enterprises from each institution using capital raised from a cohort of different investors

Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield universities have previously supported around 20 commercially viable projects via the 'Northern Triangle Initiative'. That was created in 2018 and forms the basis of Northern Gritstone, which aims to be a key part of the government's 'build back better' agenda to boost economic growth in the North

Each backed startup will either be a newly formed or an already established company that is linked to one of the universities. These are usually tech and science-based SMBs that are either borne from university research or founded by faculty members and/or students. 

Northern Gritstone will provide both 'startup' and 'follow-on' funding to support intellectual property development with a plan to raise £500 million from its corporate partners, institutional investors and "qualifying individuals".  

Jane Madeley, the CFO for the University of Leeds, will represent the institution as a non-executive director on Northern Gritstone's board.

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"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," she said. "But a lack of capital investment has sometimes limited that capability - Northern Gritstone will go a long way to help release this pent-up potential."

If the company is successful with its funding plans, it will make Northern Gritsone one of the largest investors for commercial university tech and science-related intellectual property. Plastic Logic is an example of a university spin-off, having been created at Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory in 2000. 

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