UK universities launch £8m impact fund to back campus-created spinouts

A dozen UK universities have set up a 10-year impact fund to back social ventures created on campus.

Impact 12, announced this week, aims to raise £8m from alumni networks and other impact investors to back up to 15 “mission-led university ventures”. 

Impact 12 was developed by Social Investment Scotland, an impact investor and responsible finance provider based in Edinburgh, in partnership with the University of Oxford, along with Cambridge, Northampton, Coventry, Aston, Birmingham, Cranfield, Keele, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick universities. 

Launching later this year, the fund will provide equity investment and debt (seed and follow-on funding), as well as access to financial and other expertise. It will be managed by SIS Ventures, a subsidiary of Social Investment Scotland that invests in early-stage, mission-driven businesses. 

This is a new and exciting vehicle to fund some of the very best mission-driven businesses spinning out of universities’ research labs and accelerators

Funding from Impact 12 will help meet “a clear need” for early-stage finance among university social ventures, which often lack the financial support that traditional university spinouts or startups get, according to the partners. 

Cornerstone of the economy

Eleven companies targeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have emerged from the University of Oxford in the past three years, according to Professor Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor at the institution. Impact 12 would, she said, “align Oxford’s research and innovation expertise with the community experience of our partner institutions and advance the progress of social ventures far beyond Oxfordshire’s borders”.

Alastair Davis, CEO at Social Investment Scotland, said Impact 12 was “a new and exciting vehicle for helping to support and fund some of the very best mission-driven businesses spinning out of universities’ research labs and accelerators”.

He added: “For SIS Ventures, this fund also marks a new opportunity to realise our ambition of entering new markets where we feel able to support impact creation. Through our collaboration with these 12 universities, we believe we can create considerable impact by supporting mission-aligned businesses which have the potential to be the cornerstone of our economy in years to come.”

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