The University of Dundee has been named the UK’s top university for spinout success, according to a new report from Octopus Ventures.
The Entrepreneurial Impact Report considers things like the number of patents, spinouts created and portfolio exit value to assess how well institutions commercialise and spinout deeptech companies.
The University of Dundee ranked so highly thanks to the £2.2bn IPO of AI drug discovery company Exscientia in 2021 — one of the largest ever UK university exits — and the £38m Series B raise for drug development startup Amphista Therapeutics.
The second-highest ranked university was Queen’s University Belfast, which saw carbon capture spinout Nuada raise nearly £8m in Series A funding across 2022 and 2023, and ocular pharma spinout Re-Vana Therapeutics raise a $11.9m Series A in December 2022.
The third-highest was the University of Cambridge, which saw gene therapy spinout Gyroscope Therapeutics acquired by pharma giant Novartis in 2021 in a deal potentially worth $1.5bn, and cancer genomics company Inivata acquired by oncology testing company NeoGenomics for $390m, also in 2021.
Beyond the Golden Triangle
While there has traditionally been criticism that innovation is too concentrated in the Golden Triangle of Oxford, Cambridge and London, the report also reveals that 60% of the top 10 institutions for spinout success are based outside this hub. Cardiff University placed fourth and Edinburgh Napier University climbed to 10th, a jump of 33 places since Octopus last published the report in 2020. Another recent report on UK spinouts from data platform Beauhurst also showed the emergence of other new spinout hubs across the country.
Success spread out across the UK is good news — for every £1 invested in research in the country, the government sees around £3.60 in economic benefit, according to the report.
That said, despite the potential of university spinouts — especially in areas like life sciences — growth of the sector is held back by a lack of lab space and difficulties with commercialisation.
On top of that, there’s a capital issue. The report highlights a lack of funds to hire and retain technology transfer staff, and a gap in translational funding that can take academics through from research all the way to spinning out. It’s a country-wide issue, with less than 5% of university spinouts in the UK ever raising more than £25m.
Universities in the UK are also still waiting for a decision on whether the country will rejoin Horizon Europe — the European Union’s massive research fund worth more than €95bn and a key source of initial funding for university spinouts — from which it was locked out after a spat over post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland.