Dundee is UK’s best university for spinout success
Published on 4 September 2023
The University of Dundee has been named the UK’s best for supporting spinout businesses, according to industry-leading analysis.
Dundee fended off traditional powerhouses such as Oxford, Cambridge and University College London to top Gateways to Growth: The Entrepreneurial Impact Report, compiled by Octopus Ventures, one of Europe’s largest venture capital teams.
This independent ranking was determined by factors such as numbers of patents, spin-out companies created and recent portfolio success, which for Dundee included the £2.2 billion IPO of Exscientia on the US NASDAQ, one of the largest ever UK university exits.
Dr David McBeth, Vice-Principal (Enterprise & Economic Transformation), said, “This award confirms Dundee’s modern status as the undisputed home of successful UK spinouts.
“The foundations of our success are world-leading life and biomedical sciences research, and innovative entrepreneurial researchers. Our commitment to driving the creation of increasing numbers of high growth potential spinout and start-up companies is reflected in several infrastructure investments including in a new Life Sciences Innovation Hub due to open in late 2024, as part of the Tay Cities growth deal.
“Our aspiration is to develop an Innovation District in the city to anchor our companies here in Dundee, with an ultimate vision to help this city become a magnet for high value jobs in the life sciences and health sector.
“In terms of how we create companies, we have always prided ourselves on fostering great relationships with investors and the founding teams of companies and treating each company according to its individual circumstances. We are confident that with access to more early stage, proof of concept type funding, we could deliver many more high growth companies.”
The University has always championed entrepreneurial activity and has identified Enterprise as one of the three cornerstones of its recently adopted strategy, which will define its work for the next five years.
University support is crucial in helping research-based businesses to become established, removing risk from founders as they transition from the laboratory to the development stage.
Dr McBeth added, “We are demonstrating in real-time the sort of impacts that many government strategies seek, but the one downside is that several of our spinouts have relocated away from Dundee, and indeed away from Scotland, as they pursue their growth strategies.
“It is critical that we work in partnership with Government and its agencies, and vice versa, to create the infrastructure that will help keep these businesses and the jobs they create, closer to their origins.”
Dr Amy Nommeots-Nomm, Investment Associate, Octopus Ventures, said, “Congratulations to the University of Dundee, it’s great to see them move up the rankings to take the number one spot and prove its status as a leader in the deeptech space. By harnessing local pockets of excellence like these, we can help the whole of the UK flourish.
“Since our last report, the race to tackle Covid-19 highlighted the power of academic institutions to mobilise quickly and develop solutions which transform millions of lives. Sustained funding for research and innovation, and consistent support for spin outs is vital if the UK’s universities are to continue generating globally impactful technologies.”
Tay Therapeutics is a UK biotech company based in Dundee, having spun out from the University’s School of Life Sciences in 2020.
Formerly known as In4Derm, the company was founded by Dr Andrew Woodland and Dr Mark Bell, with the aim of developing the next generation of drug therapies.
Earlier this year, the company announced a licensing deal with Vyne Therapeutics worth a potential $50 million dollars, following on from an earlier deal worth £16 million in 2021. The company is now focused on developing the Tay-EnableTM platform targeting stop codon mutations in cancer and genetic diseases.
The company operates from the University of Dundee’s Incubator for Businesses and employs 12 people.
Dr Woodland said, “Being able to develop our spinout company and drug discovery projects within the University of Dundee gave Tay Therapeutics access to cutting edge facilities, world class experts and a unique innovation ecosystem.
“We would not have been able to license two of our projects, which are currently progressing in clinical trials with Vyne Therapeutics, without the University’s initial support. Dundee truly is the City of Discovery, and the University of Dundee is an essential element of that.”
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