Forward Group grows to accommodate deals

Academic venturer, Forward Group has boosted its team in anticipation of an increased deal flow over the next year. The firm has appointed two new directors of business development, Dr Richard Exley and Heleen Kist-Nairn, responsible for activities at Leeds and Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt universities, respectively.

The two professionals, who both have experience in the nurturing of early stage technology businesses, will build up support teams at each location and work closely with university academics to spin out new business opportunities.

The appointments are in reaction to an anticipated increase in university spin-outs over the coming months. While many VCs are being cautious, Andrew Mitchell, managing director, said: “We don’t see deal flow as an issue and anticipate two or three well-funded spin-outs a year from each partner university. We are looking at long term development programmes and the universities are where these opportunities start. So we are hoping to expand the range of partnerships we have to increase deal flow.”

Forward’s executive, Ray Chamberlain committed GBP30 million to the venture, which launched in 1999. Leeds University was the firm’s inaugural partner for the fund and was joined by Heriot-Watt University in June when it signed a five-year deal with Forward worth GBP10 million. Forward is in discussions with several other leading research universities. The firm hopes to emulate technology transfer success models of US universities such as Stamford and MIT.