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The Business Magazine July 2024
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British regions buck trend of global investment drop in science and tech

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iStock
28 March 2024
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Science and technology start-ups in regions across the UK broke global trends to grow private sector investment in 2023, according to new research.

Businesses in Yorkshire and Humber saw a huge uplift of 20 per cent in venture capital investment through the period, reaching new highs of more than £200 million of investment in 2023. Welsh companies also attracted more investment in 2023, with funds raised increasing by 8.7 per cent to £112 million.

Investment levels around the world tapered off after the pandemic and this downward trend did impact the UK, however the UK maintained its lead in Europe, and returned investment closer to pre-pandemic levels.

Now, according to the research from Barclays Eagle Labs, more than half of founders (54 per cent) say the availability of funding is holding back their company’s growth.

In 2021, the University of Oxford attracted £875 million in research funding – more than any other university in the country.  

That year the university created 31 companies – more than any other university on the planet.

In that year, the companies spun out of The University of Oxford alone attracted £1.4 billion of venture capital funding. The rest of the UK pulled in just £1.2 billion.

In 2022, spin-outs from the University of Oxford sold for more than a total of a billion pounds. Last year the success continued, including a staggering £96 million in seed funding (probably the highest seed fund raise ever in Europe) raised by Beacon Therapeutics, a spin-out from Syncona and the University of Oxford. 

These results follow the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) launching a new campaign aimed at driving up domestic investment opportunities in scale-ups. The ‘Science and Tech is our Superpower’ campaign aims to make sure growth-ready firms in the sector can access the funding they need from the UK to scale their success, boost long term economic growth and create jobs.

Launching the research at Barclay’s Eagle Labs Industry Bridge event, which helps tech start-ups grow by connecting them with major industry players, Technology Minister Saqib Bhatti said: "British science and tech start-ups are thriving all over the country, and many are ripe for investment.

"We need investors to match the ambition of UK founders, and back British innovation before our best investment opportunities travel abroad for the funding they need to grow."

When looking at mergers and acquisitions, tech founders were overwhelming optimistic (65 per cent) about what the UK landscape meant for the next stage of their start-up journey.

Though preferences were split, founders suggest that selling their business to an international buyer (15.8 per cent) is their most preferred ‘exit strategy’.

While this was closely followed by selling through private equity (15.5 per cent) or to a UK buyer (14.4 per cent), it shows that many of Britain’s best home-grown investment opportunities could move abroad.

Amanda Allan, Director of Barclays Eagle Labs said: "We recognise that access to capital and funding is important to ambitious tech businesses. As such we’ve put a range of support in place to assist businesses navigate the UK’s funding landscape including growth programmes, such as the Funding Readiness Programme, which we run four times per year, and connectivity tools such as Barclays Demo Directory."


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Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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