University of Ulster launches VC fund

A £12 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 spin-out 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 spin-outs. Average investment size will be in the range of £500,000 to £1 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, University of Ulster’s pro-vice chancellor for research and development. He added that 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 spin-out policy and is ensuring 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.”