Former Science Minister Appointed Rainbow Seed Fund Advisory Chair Next stage for ‘risk-taking’ public sector, early-stage technology investment fund

British technology investor Rainbow Seed Fund (RSF)today announced the appointment of former science minister Ian Taylor as the new chair of its advisory board.

RSF is an evergreen early stage venture capital fund dedicated to kick-starting and catalysing further investment in technology companies. The Fund is independently managed by venture capital specialist Midvenand focuses on promising technologies developed at some of the UK’s largest publicly-funded research facilities (including the Rutherford Appleton and Daresbury Laboratories, the Babraham Research Campus, Norwich Research Park and Porton Down), and the rapidly expanding science and technology campuses linked to them.

The Fund holds investments in several of the UK’s most promising companies in areas as diverse as novel antibiotics, research into Alzheimer’s disease, “green” chemicals and airport security.

RSF also released an economic analysis illustrating the value of its early-stage investment in tech start-ups to the economy. Although the majority of the companies are still young, the Fund’s investment to date of £7m has already leveraged more than £150m from private investors, has helped create 255 high-tech jobs, £40m of export sales and economic gross value add (“GVA”) of £32m. The report highlights the crucial role played by the very early intervention of the Fund, concluding that nearly three quarters (73%) of the companies would never have been able to get off the ground without Rainbow’s support.

The report also recognises that it is early days for many of the companies and that, as more of the investments mature and expand from a research base into full sales mode, economic activity is likely to rise substantially. A further 350 jobs are forecast by 2018 and GVA is projected to climb to £200m, all attributable in great part to the £7m Rainbow invested to help kick start the companies.

Ian Taylor commented: “I see this as a key area for further effort in the UK. Britain is good at research, but not as good at putting that research into practice. Both direct and sponsored government intervention is needed because there is often a gap between the generation of an idea and the creation of wealth or social value from that idea.

“The Rainbow Seed Fund should play a key and higher profile role as part of the wider framework to stimulate the process of taking ideas beyond discovery towards commercialisation. This report is an important illustration of how we can create real economic value over the medium to long term and how early intervention using public funds can stimulate later stage private sector investment by mitigating risk,” Taylor added.

Board member Dr Celia Caulcott said: “The Fund partners believe Ian’s experience in business, politics and government will help expand this level of positive economic activity, and generate even stronger returns for the UK economy.”

Established in 2002 by a group of public sector research establishments, the Rainbow Seed Fund helps technology companies in the early stages of their journey towards sustainability by providing investment, strategic support and leveraging private capital.

Board member Dr Tim Bestwick said: “The economic impact report we’re releasing today confirms the importance of not only investing in very early-stage companies and pre-companies, but also the crucial role played by the Fund in continuing to work with companies to enhance sustainability through strategic support and leverage.”

The Fund has invested £7m of public money since its inception, and has leveraged more than £150m of private investment to date: a ratio of more than 20:1 private to public funds. The Fund has supported more than 30 technology start-up companies in sectors including health, environmental services, international development, and security and defence. The Fund’s objective is to help translate high quality 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 RSF provides a solution.

Midven director Dr Andrew Muir said: “As fund manager for the Rainbow Seed Fund, we are looking forward to working with Ian. His business network and his cross-party experience will help us maximise the potential of the Fund, making him the ideal candidate for Chair.”

Ian Taylor was a member of the UK Parliament for 23 years until he stood down in 2010, including serving as Science Minister from 1994 to 1997. He chaired the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee 2007-10. He is now Executive Chairman of LivingPlanIT SA which is working with the Technology Strategy Board to encourage smaller companies to access the Internet of Things. He also chairs the National Space AcademySteering Group. Ian Taylor is a strategy adviser to the ESA Director-General. He is a Council member for RSF partner the Science & Technologies Facilities Council and a member of the Council of the Campaign for Science & Engineering.

The previous chair of the advisory board, Dr Bruce Smith, stepped down late last year after more than 10 years of valuable service.

Following the Rainbow Seed Fund’s initial successes, fund partner Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council announced invest an additional £10m in a Synthetic Biology fund,managed within the RSF framework by Midven under the oversight of the RSF advisory board. The purpose is to support very early stage companies developing tools for synthetic biology, or using synthetic biology approaches to deliver their business objectives. The funding was announced by the Chancellor in the 2012 Autumn Statement as part of Government support for synthetic biology as one of the ‘eight great technologies’ which current Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, has identified as areas where the UK can lead the world.

By UKBAA 31 Jan 2014