TCD and UCD create €60m start-up super-fund

17 Jun 2016

Pictured (l to r): Walter Hobbs, Executive Director Investment & Finance at Enterprise Ireland; Gerry Maguire, General Partner Atlantic Bridge; Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation; Professor Patrick Prendergast, Provost Trinity College Dublin; Professor Andrew Deeks, President of University College Dublin; Mark Horgan, General Partner Atlantic Bridge

Two of Ireland’s leading universities – University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin – have joined forces to form a €60m investment fund for start-ups based on research emerging from third-level institutions.

Other backers behind the University Bridge Fund include Atlantic Bridge, the European Investment Fund, Bank of Ireland, AIB and Enterprise Ireland.

Future Human

The fund will be focused on early-stage companies that will emerge from third-level institutions in Ireland.

The super-fund will accelerate the commercialisation of groundbreaking research, particularly in areas like software, hardware, engineering, life sciences, biotech and agrifood.

The University Bridge Fund was initiated by Trinity and UCD.  The leading universities appointed Atlantic Bridge to develop and manage the fund, leading to top institutional investors like Enterprise Ireland and the European Investment Fund coming on board.

The EIF has investments in 33 such dedicated third-level funds, the  across Europe UCL. This is the fifth largest fund they have invested in and the first in Ireland.

Earlier this UCL, London’s leading university with 11,000 staff and 35,000 students, announced a €50m fund for commercialising its research over the next five years, with the EIF one of the main backers of that fund also.

‘This fund will be transformational in supporting our internationally-leading research to become globally-leading businesses’

The University Bridge Fund will provide capital and expertise for scaling companies into the US and Chinese markets and elsewhere.

The Bridge model

The fund will be overseen by Atlantic Bridge Capital, which has led investments of more than €100m since it was established and manages more than €400m in assets.

In March, Atlantic Bridge confirmed a new €140m fund for tech companies, called Atlantic Bridge III, which will invest in up to 20 European companies in the areas of big data, internet of things, robotics and cloud computing.

Irish companies that have benefited from the ‘Bridge model’ for scaling-up technology companies include Movidius, Swrve, Fieldaware, Glonav and PolarLake.

“Irish third-level institutions are generating cutting-edge research, which we believe has great potential to be commercialised into global companies of scale,” said Atlantic Bridge general partner Gerry Maguire.

‘We expect the pipeline of UCD and Trinity companies to account for at least 50pc of the investment fund’

“Atlantic Bridge will bring world-class investment processes, scaling expertise and an international platform to generate strong commercial returns for investors.”

The fund will enhance success at UCD and Trinity. Over the last 10 years, they have jointly spun-out more than 60 companies, which have secured in excess of €200m in investment, such as Equinome, Logentries and OxyMem from UCD and Genable, Opsona Therapeutics and Swrve from Trinity.

“Trinity and UCD are committed to achieving both economic and societal impact from our research excellence,” Provost of Trinity, Prof Patrick Prendergast, explained.

“This fund will be transformational in supporting our internationally-leading research to become globally leading businesses – creating new jobs and enabling new innovative products.”

UCD president, Prof Andrew Deeks, added: “The strong track record, scale and professional supports of UCD and Trinity prompted us to seek out the creation of this fund in the first place.

“We expect the pipeline of UCD and Trinity companies to account for at least 50pc of the investment fund. We are both ambitious and confident that the University Bridge Fund will generate excellent commercial outcomes that will encourage more researchers to become entrepreneurs.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years