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BBSRC Invests £10 M in Synthetic Biology

Published: Thursday, November 07, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, November 07, 2013
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The investment has been allocated to the fund by the BBSRC in response to the 2012 Synthetic Biology Roadmap, which sets out plans to harness opportunities in this area.

Entrepreneurial scientists in the synthetic biology space can benefit from a new £10M investment fund that opens for business today. The new fund will help companies in the early stages of their journey towards sustainability, through investment, strategic support and leveraging private capital.

The synthetic biology fund will be managed by private investment specialists Midven through its association with the long-established Rainbow Seed Fund, which provides kick-starting finance to technology start-up companies that evolve (or 'spin-out') from publicly-funded research.

Science Minister David Willetts said: "Small businesses make up 99 per cent of all businesses in this country. They are a vital driver of our economy's success, and business-led innovation in this sector will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of the global science race. It is imperative we do all we can to ensure businesses don't just survive, but thrive."

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC's Executive Director, Innovation & Skills, said: "For synthetic biology to deliver benefits to society we need to translate basic research into useful products, tools and services. It is notoriously hard for early stage companies to do this because of difficulties moving from an establishment phase towards sustainability. The first round of finance is always the hardest to find and this new fund provides a solution."

Long-term development programmes and the difficulty of raising finance conspire to hamper progress in the early stages of a company's development. This has resulted in the phrase 'Valley of Death' being a common term for the road to commercialisation. This investment aims to bridge the valley offering support to help businesses stand on their own.

Midven is perfectly placed to manage the fund; the Rainbow Seed Fund is already supported by several Research Councils and has a long and established track record of success.

Over the past decade the Rainbow Seed Fun has: leveraged over £150M of private investment from just £7M of its own investment (a ratio of over £20 for every £1 from Rainbow); supported 29 technology start-up companies (in sectors such as health, environmental services, international development, and security and defence); and bolstered the UK's exports (between 75% and 100% of sales in Rainbow Seed Fund companies are overseas and helped create employment today of 172 high value technology-related jobs).

Dr Andrew Muir, a director of Midven, said: "This is a significant move and potentially hugely beneficial for a burgeoning sector. We are excited by the UK's strength in the field of synthetic biology and believe there is potential to build world-class companies in the UK. While the Fund aims to make a financial return on investment, we are willing to take risks by investing at the earliest stages and to hold our investments longer than a typical venture fund. We are in a great position to provide capital and other assistance to grow companies that would otherwise struggle to get off of the ground. It's the experience, knowledge and strategy – as well as the investment – that affords firms the opportunity to partner with us as a route to growth."

Core partners in the Rainbow Seed Fund include BBSRC, The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

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