Qubis launches £1.2m fund to provide early-stage capital

Brian McCaul
Brian McCaul Brian McCaul

THE commercialisation and investment arm of Queen’s University in Belfast has launched a new seed investment fund in which it has set aside £1.2 million to provide vital early-stage capital.

The Innovation Fund, established by Qubis specifically for university spin-out and start-ups operating in the UK’s fastest growing sectors, is expected to make investments of between £50,000 and £150,000.

Its objective is to enable more efficient deal-closing for high potential companies through co-investment with aligned partners.

Queen’s was ranked as the UK's most entrepreneurial university in 2019 and 2020, having created 100 science and technology spin-outs generating £323 million in annual revenue and 3,100 jobs.

And many of the north’s top companies such as Kainos Group (valued at over £2 billion) and Fusion Antibodies are from the Qubis portfolio.

Brian McCaul, chief executive of Qubis and director of innovation at Queen’s said: “We’ve been on a mission to provide more efficient access to capital for university spin-outs to enable them to continue their R&D journey and get to market while the opportunity is there, so we're excited to launch this fund.

“It will build on the great work already done to stimulate more angel and VC investment in the sector, working in partnership with other funders to help realise the potential of these innovative companies.”

Oisin Lappin, corporate finance manager at Qubis said: “The Innovation Fund is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, helping to incentivise private investors to back innovations that have the potential to make a real impact. It will back companies seeking to commercialise disruptive technology across a broad range of areas including life sciences, artificial intelligence and engineering.

“We were delighted with the significant interest received during the launch of our first fund. It's clear there is demand from investors to support this sector and our ambition is to build on this and raise larger funds to deliver further impact.”

The fund will be managed by Sapphire Capital Partners LLP, an award-winning investment manager based in London and Belfast which specialises in SEIS and EIS funds, working with Qubis as the portfolio mentor.

Boyd Carson, partner at Sapphire Capital said: “Historically, significant amounts of capital within the early-stage space are drawn towards London, so it is extremely positive for the economic outlook of Northern Ireland to have an exclusively private venture capital fund dedicated to supporting ground-breaking innovation.

“This marks the start of an exciting time for venture capital investment in Northern Ireland and we hope that further funds will follow.”