A €20m venture capital fund focused exclusively on campus and post-campus companies was launched today by Tánaiste Mary Harney TD. It is the first dedicated venture fund supporting the commercialisation of research from Irish third level institutions.
Enterprise Ireland has committed €8.6m to the fund which is being managed by 4th Level Ventures, a subsidiary of Dolmen Securities Limited. The rest will come from private investors, the largest of which is German insurance giant, Munich Re, which owns 90pc of the Ergo Group, of which Dolmen Securities Ltd is part.
Two funding programmes were announced at the launch: the 4th Level Venture Seed Fund and 4th Level Venture Fund. The former will invest in high potential start-up companies arising from research carried out in Irish third level educational institutions. The latter will invest in development capital in established companies whose origins lie in third level educational institutions globally. Both funds target opportunities that provide for capital appreciation through rapid acceleration of revenues typically arising in the life sciences, information and communications technology and material sciences sectors.
Making the announcement the Tánaiste said: “The Government has substantially increased investment in research and development activities in the third level sector under the National Development Plan. The commercialisation of technology from this research base is vital. Successful commercialisation will result in the emergence of the next wave of internationally competing Irish companies in cutting edge sectors.”
She continued: “Intellectual property is the key asset in this knowledge economy. The exclusive focus of this fund on investing in companies whose intellectual property arises from third level education institutional research addresses the barrier of availability of finance to knowledge-based, research-driven companies.”
Ronan Reid, director, 4th Level Ventures, said: “4th Level Ventures combines the best of breed partnerships between business leaders, investors, the third level sector and financial institutions. We apply the resulting unique expertise to help build, commercialise and grow the business opportunities that arise from third level research. We look forward to working with the third level sector in identifying and developing the next wave of knowledge based, innovation driven companies.”
Pat Maher, executive director, Enterprise Ireland said, “A unique and welcome aspect of the activities of 4th Level Ventures concern their work on the ground in various third level colleges. Representatives of the fund work with commercialisation teams from the third level sector and with academics at an early stage of the development of a project to help them evaluate propositions and make commercial decisions. This early intervention is a vital step in converting laboratory-based research into innovative new start up companies.”
Under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, €95m has been committed to venture capital funds through Enterprise Ireland. This funding will leverage an estimated €400m for investment in high technology, start-up and SME businesses.
By Brian Skelly