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SETSquared reveals record £616 million investment raise for university spin outs

21 May 2021
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SETsquared, the business incubator for Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey universities, has released data which shows that a record level of investment was raised by its member companies in 2020, despite the pandemic.

Investment from private and public sources across the year, totalled £616 million, which represents a 40 per cent increase on 2019.

The investments range from those all-important pre-seed and seed raises (typically up to £1 million) through to a £118 million series E raise by SETsquared Bristol alumnus Graphcore. Private investment accounted for 90 per cent of the sum raised, with the remaining co-investment from publicly funded R&D grants and debt finance.

SETsquared is currently running a range of fully funded programmes available to support businesses in Swindon and Wiltshire. More than 60 businesses have already benefitted from this world-leading support and there are upcoming programmes still available for businesses in the region to benefit from.

The Innovation Workout is a fully funded online workshop to help established companies hone their business models to create greater potential for investment and growth. This workshop provides dedicated time with expert mentors for business leaders to revisit and scrutinise their business models. It engineers the opportunity to consider different financial models, develop new and existing products, and identify new revenue streams.

Previous participant Alan Roan, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Salisbury-based Cervus Defence said of the programme: “For me, getting advice from these experienced people who’ve done it before was gold dust and I could have paid a fortune for that if the Innovation Workout hadn’t come along. I really enjoyed it because it was like a speed dating of ideas, it forced me to sit down and do tasks quickly.”

Registrations are now open for the next available Innovation Workout, which takes place on 14 and 15 June.

By taking part in this workshop businesses may be asked to join SETsquared’s high-profile Scale-Up Programme, which provides access to exclusive events, expertise in growing businesses and dedicated support to help companies raise public and private investment.

In addition, SETsquared is also offering fully funded business support for technology start-ups in the Swindon and Wiltshire area.

The Entrepreneur’s Workout is an online programme designed for business founders to dive into their business models to ensure a strong foundation for profitable growth. The programme culminates in the opportunity to pitch the business model to a panel of experts to gain valuable feedback. Applications are open now for the Entrepreneur’s Workout, which takes place in October.

Previous participant Helen Cronin, Director of Royal Wootton Bassett based Barkdays & Co, said: “I found the Entrepreneurs Workout exceptional. The course really understands how entrepreneurs think and the tools provided only re-enforced this.

“It can be lonely and overwhelming starting a business. There’s so much you carry around in your head and it’s difficult to figure out where to start in a structured way. Presenting to the panel and the feedback I received as a result, has installed confidence and self-belief helping me to move on to test whether my proposition is desirable and viable.”

Registrations are now open for the next available Entrepreneurs Workout, which takes place on 4, 5 and 8 October.

Simon Bond, Innovation Director, SETsquared said: “2020 was a challenging year for everyone. As lockdown begins to lift in the UK and we dare to hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, I’m pleased that the majority of SETsquared’s member companies emerged stronger and, as the year’s investment figures show, many continued to grow.

“We hope that businesses in Swindon and Wiltshire will be inspired by this success and seize the opportunity to benefit from this fully funded business support.”

SETsquared supports tech-based businesses from start-up to scale-up with specialist programmes to help companies grow and raise investment.

The Innovation Workout and Entrepreneur’s Workout are offered in partnership with the Growth Hub – Swindon and Wiltshire LEP. The Swindon & Wiltshire Digital Business Acceleration Hub and the SME Competitiveness programme are both part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.


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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