University of Southampton launches CEI

The University of Southampton is formally launching its Centre of Enterprise & Innovation (CEI) with a series of events and seminars. Investor’s Day on April 30 will showcase some of the university’s research in optoelectronics and human genetics with the aim of fostering relationships with investors and attracting venture capital funding for the projects.

The CEI was initially established in September 2000 and is now becoming operational. It works with the holding company, Southampton Innovations, and is responsible for the technology transfer and commercialisation of research and development work undertaken by staff and students of the university. The CEI also aims to encourage a culture of entrepreneurship and is planning an entrepreneurs club with the university’s school of management. CEI hopes to further develop co-operation with local businesses.

“A total of 20 companies have already been spun out from research and innovation work within the university and it’s our task to ensure that they are followed by many more,” said Dr Tony Raven, director of CEI.

Highlights from the university’s 30-year track record for spin-outs include Southampton Photonics, which designs and manufactures optical fibre-based components for the telecoms industry. A project originating from the university’s optoelectrics research centre, the company raised first round funding of $55 million in 2000.

The CEI is also running a business plan competition for undergraduates where the best business idea presented to the judge in one minute will be rewarded with £1000 to help turn it into a business. Other projects include University Day, which aims to encourage academics, post-graduates, researchers and staff from universities to share experience in commercialising research, and Business Partnering Day when local companies can meet researchers and CEI staff to share information and discuss working together.

Spinout projects from the university already stand to benefit from investment by the £9 million Sulis Seedcorn Fund which the university won government funding for through the University Challenge Seed Fund competition. Together with other universities in the South of England, Southampton was awarded a number of grants from the Department of Trade and Industry Higher Education Innovations Fund that will be used to establish a regional network of business hatcheries, provide enterprise and entrepreneurial training and set up enterprise offices within the universities different faculties.

Also this month, the University of Southampton has unveiled plans for a £5 million venture capital fund in collaboration with IP2IPO, the intellectual property subsidiary of investment bank Beeson Gregory. Along with consulting groups and early stage investors such as Merlin and Pond Ventures, 30-40 Beeson Gregory investors will be attending the university’s Investor Day event.