A growing number of social enterprises are emerging from universities, aiming to make a real difference to communities in London and beyond. These companies need capital to grow, and a new project launching this fall will lay the groundwork for a standalone venture capital fund.
The London Social Venture Fund will seek to provide early funding to new London startups with a social purpose. To achieve this, a new project from a collaboration between Queen Mary and UCL has brought together an innovative coalition of London universities and partners to generate a critical mass of new social enterprise activities that will provide the foundations needed to raise an investment fund that can support university social projects emerging in the capital.
Mr Phil Clare, Managing Director of Queen Mary Innovation, comments:
“This project aims to benefit London through social entrepreneurship. There has been an explosion of interest in social enterprise in recent years, as academics, students and all members of university communities turn towards business tools to solve the myriad of problems facing our society.
Entrepreneurship allows researchers to implement innovative ideas in new ways, whether it’s cleaning up London’s air, developing new medical technologies for the NHS, or tackling deep-seated poverty. rooted. But without support, structure and capital, many new social enterprises will struggle to start growing. Our new venture capital fund program will offer all three. »
The project will build a pipeline of new businesses from London universities and develop a London-wide academic support network including legal support, business model development and mentoring. Additionally, the universities hope to gather enough data to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach and share lessons learned with like-minded colleagues across the UK.
Social enterprises set up by academics and students are increasingly growing in Britain, but significant barriers remain which the Social Venture Fund seeks to overcome.
- First, the field is too new to obtain financial or impact data on the performance of research- and student-based social projects. Start-up social funders therefore need to step up their efforts to attract investors, who prefer established markets with rich performance data. This project seeks to generate this data.
- Second, social enterprises, by their nature, often operate in areas covered by the public sector – particularly health and social services. Public procurement is complex, cumbersome and, worst of all, slow. An established business can absorb this. A new social enterprise cannot. This project will help businesses navigate the public procurement process, thereby fostering innovation in public services.
- Third, investors are less likely to fund minority startup founders or female founders. University social enterprises have a higher percentage of female founders and London has the most diverse student body in Britain. By supporting university social enterprises, this project could improve the diversity of London’s startups.
Dr Steven Schooling, Director of Engineering and Physical Sciences at UCL Business, comments:
“We are delighted to be working with other universities and partners across London to see this important initiative get underway. UCLB is proud to have pioneered technology transfer for university social enterprises. Our social enterprises have had a real impact on causes as diverse as improving sustainable development. agricultural practices in developing countries, helping to promote healthy diets among under-5s and even creating paint from coal mine waste. Early-stage social enterprises, however, require pre-seed capital, access to public markets and leveraging the local ecosystem, which the London Social Venture Fund will seek to provide.
Professor Colin Bailey, President and Principal of Queen Mary University of London, said:
“I am delighted that this unique partnership between universities, businesses and local authorities has come together to harness our capabilities and experience to create a social enterprise pipeline that will benefit our communities for years to come.”
The London Social Venture Fund project will launch this autumn. Participating universities are Queen Mary University of London, UCL, London Metropolitan University, London Business School, King’s College London, University of London, Goldsmiths University of London, University of the Arts London, London School of Economics and Political Science, University of East . London and City University. Other partners and investors include Barclays Eagle Labs, Sodexo, Central London Forwards, Royal Docks, Royal Albert Docks, the London Borough of Newham and the Federation of Small Businesses.
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