Irish government supports another new VC fund

A new biotech fund, sponsored by Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government’s trade and technology body, has been launched. The €25 million European Bioscience Fund I will focus on identifying early stage investments in the bioscience sector in Ireland and the rest of Europe, and on US scientists and entrepreneurs seeking to start a business in Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland is a cornerstone investor in the fund through its Seed and Venture Capital Initiative, which aims to encourage private sector investment in early stage venture capital funds through public-private partnerships. Co-investors in the fund include Irelandia Investments, the investment vehicle of the Ryan family, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The fund will be managed by Growcorp, a Dublin-based firm that invests in high-tech companies, particularly platform and enabling technologies. It already manages one fully invested venture capital fund. Michael Donnelly, chief executive of Growcorp, said: “We have built up a portfolio of interesting early stage investments in diagnostics, therapeutics, drug delivery and sensor technologies.” The company has established strategic alliances with US bioscience advisory companies and a US fund manager to help open up the US market for later funding rounds.

The launch of the fund was announced by Mary Harney, the Irish Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, who reiterated the government’s commitment to help increase employment in indigenous biotech companies from 400 to 1800 over five years.

European Bioscience Fund I is the third fund to be launched by Enterprise Ireland since the beginning of 2002, when Enterprise Ireland announced it would commit €95 million to help establish 12 new VC funds. Kernel Capital Partners, investing in ICT and life science companies, was launched in April and Seroba BioVentures was launched in February. It is hoped that Enterprise Ireland’s money will help attract private capital to the new funds, which together aim to raise a total of €400 million.