SETsquared member companies raise record £616m investment despite the global pandemic

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SETsquared has released data which shows that a record level of investment was raised by its member companies in 2020, despite the pandemic.

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

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

“The record-setting £616m raise reflects the hard work of hundreds of committed founders and innovators across the SETsquared ecosystem who are developing technologies which will transform the future, from the way we live, travel and learn to the way we care for each other and our environment,” said Simon Bond, Innovation Director at SETsquared.

“It shows that even during a global pandemic, strong ventures with good university connections, ambitious teams and the right support, will continue to raise investment.”

SETsquared, the global no. 1 university business incubator and enterprise partnership of research-intensive universities Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, supports tech-based businesses from start-up to scale-up with a range of specialist programmes to help companies grow and raise investment.

In 2020, there were many success stories from SETsquared companies across different sectors that contributed to the record growth. For example, SETsquared Bristol member LettUs Grow secured £2.35m in funding for their patent-pending indoor aeroponic growing facilities designed to address global food security and sustainability concerns.

Charlie Guy, Co-founder and CEO of LettUs Grow said: “This investment gave us the platform to really accelerate in 2020 and scale-up the delivery of our game-changing technology to farmers across the country. We’re seeing rising demand from around the world for new technologies to help farmers grow crops in ways that mitigate against the effects of climate change and ever-increasing extreme weather events.”

Furthermore, Newport based SETsquared Scale-Up member SpaceForge, which is developing production methods for materials in space that are not possible to create on Earth, raised £600k funding from the Development Bank of Wales, alongside Bristol Private Equity Club and Innovate UK. The company benefitted from an Investment Programme delivered by SETsquared and funded by Innovate UK which aimed to secure private Angel investment alongside public funding.

Joshua Western, CEO and Founder, SpaceForge said: “It was amazing to receive this funding at such a critical time for our company. It enabled us to create jobs and start development of a new product called Fielder – an innovative method for satellite recovery. This can rendezvous with returning satellites which catches them rather than them burning up in the atmosphere leaving harmful debris or ending up in the sea. We then have a method to refurbishing and reusing them – so the environmental benefits are huge.

“The SETsquared team were so responsive in helping us raise these funds that we were able to push it across the line before the UK-wide COVID-19 lockdown which has meant we’ve been able to press on with this development through a tricky economic time.”

Exeter SETsquared member Rolemapper is an AI-powered intelligent job design platform which automates and transforms how organisations design and manage job descriptions to hire, retain and grow an inclusive and diverse workforce. The company raised in 2020 to drive accelerated growth of new customers and revenue, through increased sales and marketing resource, as well as rapid tech development.

Sara Hill, Founder and CEO, Rolemapper said: “We’ve had so much great support from SETsquared. They’ve helped us shape and focus our business priorities and enabled us to accelerate our lead generation and marketing activities. It’s been a great runway for us to grow the business.”

Other companies to raise from across the Partnership in 2020 included Surrey based Playwaze which raised £400k for its digital platform for managing and participating in sport and physical activity. Bath-based Kinderley raised £300k for its digital resources for early years childcare professionals and Southampton-based Renovos raised investment to further develop its breakthrough Renovite® technology platform, which harnesses nanoclay gels to deliver biologics safely and cost-effectively for tissue regeneration.

Simon Bond added: “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.

“2020 will be remembered for many things, and I’m proud that one of these will be the way our member companies successfully navigated through the crisis.”

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