The University of Cambridge Challenge Fund, which supports the development of new businesses arising from University research, has recently marked its tenth anniversary.
The Fund was established as part of a national government initiative to fund university innovation, and over the past ten years has made 34 investments and supported the development of 23 companies based on the university’s research. The fund has exited eight of these investments, returning £1.9 million for re-investment in new companies.
Spin-outs that have received backing include Psynova Neurotech, which has developed the first blood test for schizophrenia, and Camfridge, which has developed a highly efficient refrigeration technique. Two of the companies supported by the Challenge Fund have gone on to produce spin-out companies of their own.
Florin Udrea of the Department of Engineering was one of the first recipients of money from the fund when he co-founded Cambridge Semiconductor Ltd (CamSemi), a fabless semiconductor company which designs and manufactures energy-efficient power conversion products. The company has gone on to raise close to £30 million in follow-on funding.
Udrea said, “The funding we received from the Challenge Fund was instrumental to CamSemi in our early days. It is a critical resource for early-stage university companies, and continues to provide support to Cambridge researchers.”
Bill Matthews, who played a key role in the establishment of a dedicated seed funds team at Cambridge, said, “The Challenge Fund has played a pivotal role in establishing and supporting the entrepreneurial culture of the university. Challenge Fund investment puts spin-outs in a position to attract the right people and funding.”
Companies receiving support from the Cambridge Challenge Fund have raised over £100 million in follow on investment and £17 million in grant funding, leveraging the original Fund investment 33 times.