Scotland gets top marks for producing university spin-outs

Scotland is a high achiever in terms of producing university spin-outs, with three institutions in the top 20, according to a new study.

The University of Glasgow (pictured) was among Scottish institutions ranking in the top 20 for producing spin-outs. Picture: Getty Images.

The latest data from the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) Enterprise Hub and Beauhurst has found that Scottish universities and local authorities have performed strongly in terms of producing spin-outs, with Scottish Enterprise the most active investor in such firms over the past decade.

The report found that despite domination by the “Golden Triangle” in university spin-outs (Oxford, Cambridge, London), Edinburgh and Glasgow rank fourth and sixth respectively based on the local authorities that have produced the most spin-outs in the last ten years – with 72 and 43 such firms respectively.

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The Universities of Edinburgh (52), Strathclyde (38) and Glasgow (29) all rank in the top 20 institutions for producing spin-outs, according to the study, which says it is the first comprehensive report on the UK spin-outs landscape, looking at almost 1,500 such start-ups.

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Overall, while deal numbers fell in 2020 as investors looked to support existing portfolios rather than make new investments, the year also saw the highest average investment on record, at £4.3 million. Scottish Enterprise was found to have been the most active investor in this area, backing 201 deals through its various vehicles.

Additionally, 2020 saw a record number of grants awarded to UK spinouts (231), in part due to InnovateUK to respond to Covid-19.

Across the UK, pharmaceutical, clinical diagnostics and medtech are among top sectors for spin-outs – boosted in the last year by a focus on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

The RAE, building on its own work to boost innovation through its Enterprise Hub, intends to use the evidence to inform the wider debate about UK innovation and enterprise.

David Cleevely, chair of the enterprise committee at the RAE, said: “Spin-outs are a key vehicle for getting the incredible ideas and innovations developed in our UK universities into real-world products and processes. This report aims to provide a baseline understanding of UK spinouts - how many, how much, who and where - and provides food for thought as to where we go from here.”

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