Imperial launches early-stage innovation fund to support staff- and student-founded startups

Imperial College London (Imperial) has launched its first Innovation Fund to invest in early-stage, high-growth, knowledge-intensive companies spun out of the world top ten university. 

It offers alumni and investors the opportunity to support the commercial development of Imperial’s discoveries into tomorrow’s solutions in medicine, engineering, biochemistry, genetics, materials, quantum computing, data science, and beyond. 

Imperial has a long history of producing ground-breaking scientific research and disruptive technologies, as well as a flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Its strong recent performance has seen the number of startups more than double in the last five years, attracting approximately £800m of new investment. Notable spinout successes include GraphicsFuzz, which sold to Google in 2018, and Magic Pony, an AI startup that was acquired by Twitter in 2016. 

The Innovation Fund will invest in opportunities related to the College - whether founded by a member of staff or a student, or with a research or development link - to build a portfolio of (S)EIS-qualifying investee companies. It will invest at early-stage and provide follow-on funding, and will invest alongside other venture capital funds, investment management companies, and investor groups. It may also seek matched grant funding from suitable institutions.

Imperial has developed a strong infrastructure and support network around its entrepreneurs. Aside from the commitment and backing of the faculty and strong industry networks, Imperial has introduced facilities and programmes including the Enterprise Lab, the White City Incubator, the Translation & Innovation Hub, the Imperial Venture Mentoring Service, and the Imperial College Advanced Hackspace to help support new ideas. In 2019, Imperial took its technology transfer organisation back in-house, to provide the wider investor community direct access to the College’s most innovative entrepreneurs, their ideas, and startups. 

Parkwalk has been the UK’s most active investor in world-changing technologies emerging from the UK’s leading universities and research institutions over the past five years. University spinouts are a unique asset class in early-stage and growth investing, because they typically have years of research and development underpinning their technologies before they seek investment to commercialise. They are well tested, with strong IP protection, developed by the leading experts in their field, and are often seeking to solve the world’s greatest challenges. This provides de-risked, high-quality opportunities with a significantly lower failure rate than the wider startup community. 

Professor Ian Walmsley, Provost of Imperial College London, says: “Early stage investment really matters for deep science and technology startups. The Imperial College Innovation Fund will provide invaluable support to Imperial founded companies at this critical stage in their growth.

“Imperial’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem is unrivalled in the UK. Our staff and students are founding companies that move markets, disrupt industries, and address societal challenges. We are immensely proud of the economic and social impact they deliver for the world. This bold step will offer new ways for investors to engage with Imperial’s groundswell of entrepreneurial talent, while amplifying the impact of our work.”

Moray Wright, CEO of Parkwalk, says: “We are delighted to be managing the Imperial College Innovation Fund on behalf of Imperial College London. Imperial is one of the world’s great universities, with a particularly strong reputation in deep science and technology. Its startup companies are developing disruptive technologies that can have global impact and benefit wider society, as well as create the potential for significant investor returns.”