University spinout driver maintains impressive financial and business returns

Andrew Wilkinson

Ten hi-tech companies have been spun out of the University of Manchester this year, delivering multimillion-pound benefits for the region.

The biomedical, science and engineering companies have been created over the past year by the university’s Innovation Factory, producing cutting-edge technology and services which will benefit societies around the world.

In addition to forming these new IP-rich businesses, the Innovation Factory (IF), which is dedicated to driving the commercialisation of innovations and intellectual property originating from the university, secured an impressive £6.4m of first investment into Manchester-based spinout companies as well as £4.9m in university licensing income.

With a team of 44 and drawing on the research of 3,500 university staff in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, IF assesses and scopes research with IP potential and advises start-ups on critical legal, investment and asset management issues as they scale up.

In his first three years, Innovation Factory chief executive, Andrew Wilkinson, has overseen 32 IP-rich spinouts – nine in 2019-20, 13 in 2020-21, 10 in 21-22 – and has generated licensing income of £13.85m from third party non-spinout licensees – £1.55m 2019-20, £7.4m 2020-21, £4.9m 2021-22.

Additionally, 2021-22 has seen more than £26m of follow-on investment going into previous spinouts.

Wilkinson said: “Over the past three years the Innovation Factory has worked hard to meet our ambitious targets and fulfil our commitment to create positive social, environmental and economic impact by helping UoM academics and student inventors commercialise their research.

“We are proud to help the nation’s most visionary researchers and scholars transform their ideas and theories into a form that can be used to benefit people from all parts of the world. Manchester has always been the birthplace of great ideas and that pulse of innovation is as strong as ever.”

Wilkinson added: “This year the Innovation Factory continued to perform well and exceeded most of its key targets, placing it firmly in line with the top technology transfer offices in the world.

“Our team works tirelessly to identify opportunities and maximise investment in the innovations originating from The University of Manchester, and this year further secures our positive trajectory.”

In 2021, the Innovation Factory was instrumental in facilitating the formation of Northern Gritstone through a partnership with the Universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield.

Northern Gritstone is an investment vehicle determined to be one of the largest investors into academic spinouts in the UK.

Chaired by former Goldman Sachs chief economist and Treasury Minister, Lord Jim O’Neill, NG has raised £215m and will complete a first close of more than £300m in late 2022.

From January 2023, Wilkinson will be the president of SixU, the body made up of the six most successful commercial IP universities – Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial and Edinburgh.

The 10 newly-formed University of Manchester businesses are:

Apini Therapeutics – Novel Small Molecule Therapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory diseases without induction of immune suppression

Holiferm – Fermentation technology with initial focus on biosurfactants

Imperagen – An AI prediction of enzyme optimisation

Mi-Trial – Clinical trial companion system and app

Music in Mind Remote – Digital platform for providing music to people with dementia

Nexsys – Online platform for water management and planning

Polynerve – Synthetic polymer nerve conduit

Recon2 – System for measurement of recycled plastic content in packaging

Sebomix – A rapid, non-invasive test for the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease and a wide range of other indications

Urban 360 – Intelligence to improve urban sustainability