University deal

Venture initiative extended to robotics and AI

Robotics entrepreneurs will benefit from the programme

A venture funding initiative at Edinburgh University has been expanded into robotics and artificial intelligence and has developed a partnership with the National Robotarium at Heriot-Watt.

The Venture Builder Incubator (VBI) programme is backed by Barclays Eagle Labs, funded by the UK Government, and has welcomed 26 start-ups and early-stage businesses in fields such as life sciences, biotech and renewable energy.

Entrepreneurs from across Scotland will share £100,000, mentoring, workshops and access to Edinburgh University’s facilities at the Bayes Centre.

Duncan Martin, head of entrepreneurship at the, Bayes Centre, said: “Venture Builder Incubator specialises in bridging the gap between academia and entrepreneurship.”

UK Minister for Technology and the Digital Economy, Paul Scully said: “Start-ups in Edinburgh are at the forefront of innovation in robotics and AI, poised to redefine global technology standards.”

The UK robotics industry is projected to grow by more than 7% by 2028.

The move comes as new research reveals that British start-ups have attracted $15 billion in investment from venture capital firms so far this year.

This confirms the UK’s status as Europe’s top hub for young high-growth companies. Start-ups in France drew $8bn and in Germany $7bn and it means the UK is behind only the United States and China as a destination for VC investments.

The figures are from HSBC Innovation Banking, the business previously known as Silicon Valley Bank UK, and Dealroom, a data provider.

It puts Britain on course to attract $18bn in start-up investments over the course of the year, down from the boom years of 2021 and 2022 but slightly higher than the $17bn recorded in 2020.

In the third quarter, US investors were the biggest source of venture capital for British start-ups at 37%, ahead of UK investors, who provided 31%. European investors accounted for 9%, Asia 4 and the rest of the world 20%.

There are concerns in government and in the City that many UK start-ups look overseas for financial backing, to the detriment of the British economy.

In July the government set out a plan to change this through a series of measures aimed at unlocking an extra £75bn in capital for high-growth businesses from the British pension fund industry.

Nine of Britain’s largest defined contribution (DC) pension providers were encouraged to invest at least 5% of the assets in their default funds in unlisted equities by 2030, in an agreement dubbed the “Mansion House Compact” by Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor.

The Treasury estimates that if the rest of the country’s DC schemes followed suit this would unlock as much as £50bn in capital.

In a boost to the government’s plan, 20 of the UK’s top venture capital and growth equity firms that manage more than £25bn combined will today unveil an agreement to work with the DC retirement schemes that signed up to the July pledge, to help them step up their investments in start-ups.

The initiative, which has been called the Venture Capital Investment Compact, has been hailed by Mr Hunt as “a huge win”. Investment firms including Octopus, Balderton and SV Health Investors.

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