Sigma Capital Group, an Edinburgh-based finance house, has signed a 25-year deal to help commercialise technologies developed by Aberdeen's Robert Gordon University (RGU).
Under the terms of the partnership, Sigma will receive equity in any spin-out companies and a share of income from licensing. The partnership covers all three faculties at the university including computing, life sciences, pharmacy and renewable energy technologies.
The long hand of the pre-eminent UK university technology commercialisation company, IP Group plc can be seen in the deal. In March 2005 IP Group (then called IP2IPO) invested £360,935 for a 5 per cent stake in Sigma and pledged to support the Edinburgh firm on an exclusive basis in developing strategic relationships with Scottish universities.
The agreement included access to confidential information on the structures and terms on which IP Group had set up its relationships with universities in England. David Norwood, then CEO and now Executive Chairman of IP Group, commented at the time that the investment in Sigma was a route to expanding the IP Group model into Scotland, saying, “Scottish universities contain some of the leading science in the UK and together with Sigma we can offer them a compelling package of a committed local team and expertise in university IP commercialisation.”
Although no value was placed on the agreement with RGU, the university claims a strong track record in turning research projects into viable businesses. According to a recent survey of UK universities, income generated by RGU from commercial sales and consultancy activity was more than £42 million over a five-year period.
RGU and Sigma signed a heads of agreement on the partnership in April 2006 and subsequently built up their relationship during the recent funding of the medical devices company, B1 Medical.
In July B1 Medical – a collaboration between RGU, the University of Aberdeen and the National Health Service in the Grampian region of Scotland – raised £1.3 million in a funding round led by Sigma.
Sigma invested £800,000 in the business, with remainder coming from the Scottish Co-Investment Fund, a £45 million fund set up by the development agency, Scottish Enterprise to stimulate the early-stage venture capital market.
Sigma now aims to establish similar partnerships with other Scottish universities. Graham Barnet, Managing Director said, "This long-term partnership, combined with our recent investment in B1 Medical, further demonstrates our commitment to enhancing and accelerating the commercialisation of intellectual property emerging from universities in Scotland."
Peter Robertson, vice principal of RGU said the deal with Sigma fits well with the university’s ethos. “[Our] research strategy is very much focused on working in partnership to find solutions to real problems. Our relationship with Sigma ….. will build on the expertise of RGU and its partners to generate ideas, provide access to excellent research and bring new products to market.”
Sigma, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in London, was founded in 1997 by Barnet and joint Managing Director Neil Crabb. The firm specialises in funding technology, renewable energy and property ventures. IP Group was listed on AIM also, but in June 2006 moved its listing to the main market in London.