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Synthetic biology enterprise boost as new fund opens for business

Synthetic biology enterprise boost as new fund opens for business - 6 November 2013. BBSRC

Entrepreneurial scientists in the synthetic biology space can benefit from a new £10M investment fund that opens for business today. The new fund will help companies in the early stages of their journey towards sustainability, through investment, strategic support and leveraging private capital.

The synthetic biology fund will be managed by private investment specialists Midven through its association with the long-established Rainbow Seed Fund, which provides kick-starting finance to technology start-up companies that evolve (or 'spin-out') from publicly-funded research.

The investment has been allocated to the fund by the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) in response to the 2012 Synthetic Biology Roadmap, which sets out plans to harness opportunities in this area.

Science Minister David Willetts said: "Small businesses make up 99 per cent of all businesses in this country. They are a vital driver of our economy's success, and business-led innovation in this sector will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of the global science race. It is imperative we do all we can to ensure businesses don't just survive, but thrive."

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC's Executive Director, Innovation & Skills, said: "For synthetic biology to deliver benefits to society we need to translate basic research into useful products, tools and services. It is notoriously hard for early stage companies to do this because of difficulties moving from an establishment phase towards sustainability. The first round of finance is always the hardest to find and this new fund provides a solution."

Long-term development programmes and the difficulty of raising finance conspire to hamper progress in the early stages of a company's development. This has resulted in the phrase 'Valley of Death' being a common term for the road to commercialisation. This investment aims to bridge the valley offering support to help businesses stand on their own.

Midven is perfectly placed to manage the fund; the Rainbow Seed Fund is already supported by several Research Councils and has a long and established track record of success.

Over the past decade the Rainbow Seed Fun has: leveraged over £150M of private investment from just £7M of its own investment (a ratio of over £20 for every £1 from Rainbow); supported 29 technology start-up companies (in sectors such as health, environmental services, international development, and security and defence); and bolstered the UK's exports (between 75% and 100% of sales in Rainbow Seed Fund companies are overseas and helped create employment today of 172 high value technology-related jobs).

Dr Andrew Muir, a director of Midven, said: "This is a significant move and potentially hugely beneficial for a burgeoning sector. We are excited by the UK's strength in the field of synthetic biology and believe there is potential to build world-class companies in the UK. While the Fund aims to make a financial return on investment, we are willing to take risks by investing at the earliest stages and to hold our investments longer than a typical venture fund. We are in a great position to provide capital and other assistance to grow companies that would otherwise struggle to get off of the ground. It's the experience, knowledge and strategy – as well as the investment – that affords firms the opportunity to partner with us as a route to growth."

Core partners in the Rainbow Seed Fund include BBSRC, The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

ENDS

About Midven Limited

Midven Limited is a privately owned commercial venture fund manager with a successful track record of investing in and exiting from small and medium-sized enterprises. Midven manages five funds totalling over £60M under management. The funds have invested in a wide variety of sectors, including software, bio technology, healthcare, engineering, manufacturing and distribution. Midven's [£14M – will now be £24M] Rainbow Seed Fund provides investment start-up and early-stage for high growth technology businesses originating from our partners' research or based at their world-leading campuses for science, technology and business at. See www.midven.co.uk for more details or follow us on Twitter @Midven.

About Rainbow Seed Fund

The Rainbow Seed Fund invests in projects and companies arising from the world class research carried out in its Partners' laboratories across the UK or based at the campuses supported by its Partners. The national science and innovation campuses act as important national focal points for science-based collaboration and knowledge exchange with industry and academia. Our Partners aim to deliver strong engagement and build a thriving and interactive community of world-leading scientists, technologists and innovators. The campuses enable access to cutting-edge facilities and core scientific and technological strengths and provide an avenue to develop new capabilities and ways of working.

About synthetic biology

Synthetic biology can be described as the design and construction of novel biologically based parts, devices and systems, as well as redesign existing natural biological systems for useful purposes. It incorporates the principles of engineering (e.g. modularity, abstraction and orthogonality) into classical biotechnology, and has a number of potential applications within the bio-based knowledge economy. These include: industrial biotechnology, bioenergy, bioprocessing, novel materials and biosensors.

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £467M (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk.
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes.