Irishman Conrad Burke leading new Bill Gates-backed fund

28 Jun 2021

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The Bray native, who previously led Innovalight, is the co-founder of a new fund backing start-ups working with metamaterials.

Irish entrepreneur Conrad Burke is leading a new VC fund he co-founded that is seeking out start-ups working on metamaterials technology.

The new fund from MetaVC Partners is aiming to raise $100m for its pot and will be focused on backing early-stage start-ups working and developing products with metamaterials.

These are materials manufactured to control energy that otherwise wouldn’t happen in naturally occurring material. Harnessed correctly, it can improve computing performance while reducing energy use.

The fund has been backed by Bill Gates and former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold.

Burke, originally from Bray, was founder and chief executive of Innovalight, which developed silicon ink for use in solar energy technology and was acquired by DuPont in 2011 for about $60m. He was also a venture partner at Sevin Rosen Funds and Invention Science Fund.

He is joined by co-founder Chris Alliegro, a former Microsoft executive who was previously managing director of the Invention Science Fund and managing director of the Invention Development Fund. Both funds invested in research-intensive projects with potential for commercialisation.

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MetaVC Partners, based in San Francisco, has made two investments in the metamaterials space so far.

Telecommunications company Mangata Networks is building satellite connectivity tech for use in 5G networks, maritime and aerospace. Earlier this year it announced plans to open an R&D centre in Edinburgh.

Its other investment, Neurophos, is using metamaterials to build optical processors to improve computing performance.

The fund will invest a minimum of $2m per company with Burke telling the Sunday Independent that it is interested in renewable energy, driverless cars and tech that can speed up processing speeds in communications networks.

Alliegro said in a statement that “the field of metamaterials has morphed from almost pure science to a viable commercial industry over the past 10 years”.

“But we have just scratched the surface. Over the next 10 years, we will see an explosion of opportunities using metamaterials in computing, renewable energy, communications, medical imaging, and many other areas,” he said.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

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