Social Investment Scotland to offer multi-million boost to 'mission-driven' uni spin-outs

Social Investment Scotland (SIS), the “responsible” finance provider, has partnered with a dozen universities to create a multi-million-pound, spin-out investment fund.

The ten-year Impact 12 fund will support social ventures created within the participating universities across the UK. It aims to support ventures motivated by beneficial social or environmental impact, rather than solely by profit.

Impact 12 has been developed by Edinburgh-based SIS in partnership with the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Northampton, Coventry and eight universities comprising the Micra Project (Aston, Birmingham, Cranfield, Keele, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick). Oxford University Innovation leads the consortium.

The fund, due to launch later this year with an initial fundraising target of £8 million, will support social ventures with “innovative finance tailored to their needs”, including equity investment and debt.

Alastair Davis, CEO, SIS: 'Impact 12 provides a new and exciting vehicle for helping to support and fund some of the very best mission-driven businesses spinning out of universities’ research labs and accelerators'. Picture: Greg Macvean

The capital raised will be deployed to support up to 15 social ventures from across the partner universities, with both seed and follow-on funding over the next ten years. Impact 12 will be managed by SIS Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SIS.

Alastair Davis, chief executive of SIS, said: “At a time when global economies are still suffering the impacts of the pandemic, Impact 12 provides a new and exciting vehicle for helping to support and fund some of the very best mission-driven businesses spinning out of universities’ research labs and accelerators.

“While Scotland will always remain our core focus for connecting capital with communities, for SIS Ventures, this fund also marks a new opportunity to realise our ambition of entering new markets where we feel able to support impact creation.

“Through our collaboration with these 12 universities, we believe we can create considerable impact by supporting mission-aligned businesses which have the potential to be the cornerstone of our economy in years to come.”

Professor Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: “I am delighted to see the growing emphasis on social ventures. Over the past three years, 11 companies targeting six of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have emerged from the four divisions of the University.

“Combining applied research with sustainable economics they address some of the critical issues of the day. Impact 12 will align Oxford’s research and innovation expertise with the community experience of our partner institutions and advance the progress of social ventures far beyond Oxfordshire’s borders.”

Professor Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, added: “Cambridge is proud to join forces with sister universities to launch Impact 12, a powerful partnership for social ventures to expand their networks and scale up their work.

“The social ventures supported by our 12 universities will be at the forefront of creating change and finding solutions to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

The new fund will tap into the growing interest in impact investing and the rise of social enterprise strategies within universities. It will fundraise among alumni networks as well as the wider impact investor community.

Launched in 2018, SIS Ventures has already raised and deployed its first fund, Impact First, investing £1.3m in a portfolio of eight high-growth enterprises.

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