University of Ulster launches VC fund

A GBP12 million venture capital fund has been launched by the University of Ulster to commercialise the products of its research programmes. The Alpha fund is targeting investors in the US, Europe and Asia to commit to spinout companies from the Northern Ireland university. The fund is forecast to reach its target by October 2002 and will be focusing primarily on early stage investments in biotechnology spinouts. Average investment size will be in the range of GBP500,000 to GBP1 million.

“This is a financing model which has achieved great success in the US and we are delighted to be pioneering it in Northern Ireland,” said John Hughes, the University of Ulster’s pro-vice chancellor for research and development. The university decided to create the fund because there is a dearth of venture capital funding available to enterprises in Northern Ireland. The university is serious about its spinout policy and is ensuring that all organisational structures and financial tools are in place to take research from the laboratory to the marketplace.

“Our message to academics and researchers is a simple one,” says Hughes. “If you have commercially viable ideas and they will have to pass hard-nosed business criteria the University of Ulster has the tools to make your ideas a success.”