Last June saw a steep change in Ireland’s efforts to translate academic research into high-quality jobs.
We are now joining a select group of countries that has a dedicated venture capital fund to translate innovative academic research into companies that compete in global markets.
The new €60 million partnership announced between Trinity College Dublin (Trinity) and University College Dublin (UCD) will be a game changer in creating successful new Irish companies that can grow globally.
This partnership involves the creation of the University Bridge Fund, the country’s first ever investment fund to invest exclusively in the research generated by Irish higher education institutions. Investments will be made very early in the business cycle with a focus on translating world class research created in the lab to drive the creation and scaling of Irish companies with global potential.
On the global stage, it has long been recognised that world class science and research has significant economic impacts. The creation of venture funds which are focussed on university research has increased worldwide in recent years. Leading universities in the UK, such as Oxford and Imperial College London, Belgium’s largest university KU Leuven, and the California State System have used such funds to launch innumerable successful global spin-off companies.
The University Bridge Fund fills existing market gaps in Ireland. It demonstrates how UCD and Trinity have become proactive leaders and drivers of the Irish entrepreneurship eco-system and represents a growing maturity between private funding and public capability.
The Fund will be managed by Atlantic Bridge, which is headquartered in Dublin but has offices in Silicon Valley, London, Beijing and Hong Kong. This international platform and network will accelerate companies’ commercialisation of their ground-breaking research.
The Fund builds on fifteen years of stable investment in university research which has resulted in Ireland being ranked in the top 20 countries globally for research output; and being ranked in the top five countries in research areas such as nanotechnology, material science, immunology, computer science and agrifood.
Its establishment, with significant international investment from the European Investment Fund, provides global validation of the quality of the research in Ireland and properly benchmarks our leading universities with peer institutions internationally.
Importantly this Fund is not built on hope but a proven track record of Irish research leading to strong commercial return.
In the last year Swrve, a campus company from Trinity, raised over €40 million in venture funding and was ranked as one of the fastest growing technology companies globally. In the same period Logentries, a UCD campus company, was acquired by Rapid7 for $68 million.
Over the last decade alone, over €200 million in venture funding has been secured by around sixty spin-outs from UCD and Trinity.
The Fund also represents a national partnership. Apart from the co-operation over the past two years between Trinity and UCD, the establishment of the Fund has also led to co-investment from our two pillar banks – Bank of Ireland and AIB Bank – and a strategic investment from Enterprise Ireland. To conclude, the University Bridge Fund brings together public, private and international institutional investors for the first time, all committed to translating the best of Ireland’s research into new innovative Irish companies with global reach and scale, generating high-quality jobs.
This article was a collaboration between Dr Diarmuid O’Brien and Brendan Cremen on behalf of the Dublin Economic Monitor.