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UniVen captures the future

Noble & Company is sponsoring the UniVen VCT, a venture capital trust that invests in university spin-out companies and other early stage intellectual property based companies in the technology sector.

The VCT will be managed by Top Technology, a subsidiary of a company that specialises in the commercialisation of intellectual property from UK universities Top Technology has managed investments in more than 90 early stage technology companies, including university spin-outs, since 1986.

With this VCT, the managers will hold between 20 and 25 fledgling firms. Some will be university spin-outs involved in life and physical science while a smaller number will be companies in the technology sector without university links that are looking to execute a business plan.

The directors of this VCT say that UK universities have a reputation for scientific research. The government recognises the importance of scientific research, illustrated by its commitment to an extra 500m a year in funding in the 2002 Spending Review.

However, universities are under increasing pressure to generate revenue from research, so spin-out companies provide a way to put the research and development to good use while also offering rapid growth potential to investors.

According to the directors, 248 spin out companies were created by UK universities in 2001. The private sector is recognising the value of such enterprises and has entered into commercial agreements with some university spin-outs.

This VCT will focus on companies with products or services that will be interest to the global market and which look set to grow over the next two to four years. Companies will need to display a competitive advantage which would make it would be difficult for rival businesses to replicate its ideas.

The innovations which emerge from them enable society to progress, so the rewards for investing in the successful ones are high. This VCT follows in the footsteps of products such as the Oxford Technology series of VCTs which also invest in university spin-out companies alongside some other technology-type companies.

However, the UniVen VCT it is not restricted to one geographical region, so may have a more diverse portfolio. This wide scope could be useful in an environment where universities may experience a tightening of their research budgets.

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Out of context

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Alison Bone, email: alison.bone@centaur.co.uk or tel: 0207 943 8037

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