Daresbury Science & Innovation Campus

Although it means getting up at 05:00 in the morning I do my best to attend a monthly breakfast meeting at Daresbury Science & Innovation Campus. The Campus hosts a cluster of innovative businesses around the Daresbury Laboratory and The Cockcroft Institute and the purpose of the breakfast meetings is to bring those businesses into contact with each other as well as with potential investors, support services such as Business Link and UKTI, the universities and professional service providers such as me. Here is a video by John Leake which provides more information about those events.

For me, the most valuable part of the breakfast meeting is a seminar which takes place immediately after chin wagging over coffee and sausage and bacon rolls. This month we had presentations from
Matt Chapman of the National Institute for Health Research which can best be described as the National Health Service's university and Andy Round of Spark Impact Ltd., a subsidiary of Spark Ventures Plc.

Matt introduced us to the National Institute. He discussed how health care research and development work was funded in the UK. He then focused on the Invention for Innovation ("i4i") programme which invested £13 million on a variety of early and late stage projects between 2009 and 2010. Matt spoke about both types of projects and then set out the fund's selection criteria:
  • Relevance of the research topic to the needs of the NHS
  • Strength of the research / management team and business plan
  • Demonstrable evidence that a novel technology or intervention will be the ultimate output of the research and benefit patients.
  • A high degree of technological innovation.
  • Examples of previously successful product development programmes by members of the team, and
  • A strong health economic case.
Matt made clear that he welcomed SME particularly. He is open to bids from 16 May 2011 and the deadline is 17 June 2011. Enquiries should be addressed to i4i.programme@nihr-ccf.org.uk, telephone 020 8843 8015.

Spark Ventures Plc is a private equity company specializing in early stage investments. Andy is one of its investment managers. He manages the North West Biomedical fund. He introduced us to his company and its management. He discussed the fund which has £25 million to invest in North West England. Decision making is very fast. He said that businesses could receive their first £50,000 within 6 to 8 weeks of an initial contact. Typical investments for start-ups would be between £50,000 and £250.000 but larger investments could be made later. Established businesses receive investments of between £750,000 and £1.5 million. Andy described the application process and discussed the conditions upon which investments are made. So far his company has received 90 applications and made 11 investment decisions. He then set out his company's investment criteria.

Andy can be contacted at andy@sparkimpact.co.uk or on 0151 795 3424.