Cambridge Enterprise aiming high
Teri Willey, the switched-on chief executive of Cambridge Enterprise Limited – the university’s commercialisation arm – sees stars wherever she looks and whatever the time of day.
They are on her board and lining up to promote any initiative that furthers Cambridge innovation.
Willey paid tribute to the serial Cambridge entrepreneurs who consistently give their time, free of charge, to help new generations of entrepreneurs steer start-ups and spin-outs to commercial success.She says: “I look around me and see serial entrepreneurs who have CVs to die for. They are guiding the fortunes of world-class companies on a global stage yet they are giving their free time to Cambridge Enterprise to ensure that entrepreneurial university ventures get a decent shot at the big time. You couldn’t put a value on the sacrifice they make on behalf of Cambridge.”Willey is presiding over a critical period for Cambridge Enterprise as science & technology tyros are forced into a fierce global scrap for vital, early stage funding from increasingly discerning investors.Grooming these new entrepreneurs so they successfully pitch for lifeline funding in such a cut-throat environment is a role that leading entrepreneurs such as Andy Hopper, Hermann Hauser, Jack Lang, Richard Friend, Andy Richards, Charles Cotton, David Cleevely, Phil O’Donovan, Adam Twiss, Alan Barrell, Alex van Someren, Jonathan Milner, Tony Milbourn and many, many more volunteer to play.And Cambridge Enterprise has just secured another coup by naming Edward Benthall as its new chair. Benthall is a partner at Charterhouse Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in London. He is also an active participant in the Cambridge business angel community, through his membership of the Cambridge Capital Group. He read Modern and Medieval Languages at Magdalene College and is chairman of the 800th Anniversary Campaign Council, a group of key volunteers whose support for Collegiate Cambridge has helped the campaign to raise over £940 million to date. He has been a key supporter of the University of Cambridge Discovery Fund, one of three evergreen funds managed by the Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds team. The Discovery Fund, which was launched in 2008 as part of the 800th Anniversary Campaign, provides vital pre-seed and seed funding for commercial ideas originating from university research. Benthall succeeds Lord Roger Freeman, who has served as chair of Cambridge Enterprise since its incorporation in 2006. Willey said: “Roger’s leadership and guidance in our first years as a limited company has been invaluable. We are very sorry to see him leave, but look forward to working with our new chair as Cambridge Enterprise continues to grow.” Cambridge Enterprise recently published its annual review for 2008/09, marking two full financial years operating as a wholly owned affiliate of the university. During this time, 400 new knowledge and tech transfer transactions were completed, bringing the portfolio to over 700 active equity, consultancy and licence agreements under management. Knowledge and technology transfer income over the two years exceeded £18 million, of which almost £14 million was distributed to university academics and departments, with the remainder reinvested in patent assets, seed fund pools and support for knowledge and technology transfer services to the university. The number of Intellectual Property transactions completed by Cambridge Enterprise continued to rise in 2009, along with a 39 per cent increase in the number of consultancy agreements negotiated on behalf of the university’s academics.Cambridge Enterprise currently holds equity in 72 companies on behalf of the university and 2009 was a highly successful year for many of the companies in the portfolio with 22 of them raising over £62 million in follow-on funding. For, example, Enecsys, secured $10 million in Series ‘A’ funding toward developing a micro-inverter for photo photovoltaic panels with plans to revolutionise the solar industry by enabling higher performance and lower cost ‘plug and play’ solar power systems.Psynova Neurotech, which was founded in 2005 by Sabine Bahn of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, specialises in biomarkers to diagnose and monitor diseases such as schizophrenia and bipolar disease. In 2009 it entered a collaboration with Rules Based Medicine to provide a route to market for their first product.Willey said: “We are very fortunate at Cambridge to have a flexible IP policy that respects the interests of our academics. We remain committed to working closely with our academics in finding the best industrial partners and investors to assist in the commercialisation of the transformative research which originates from the university.”Cambridge Enterprise also manages three evergreen funds on behalf of the university. The Discovery Fund, which is the newest of the three and part of the university’s 800th Anniversary Campaign, made its first investment this year in PneumaCare Ltd, which has developed a next generation non-invasive lung function monitor, a version of which is currently being trialled with the Ministry of Defence for use in combat situations.Not content to rest on laurels, Willey wants to see Cambridge Enterprise and its portfolio companies “step up to the next level.”She said: “The goodwill that exists locally among established entrepreneurs to help new generations is absolutely staggering. I look around my board and the entrepreneurs who back university entrepreneurship initiatives and I wonder what we have done to deserve their support.“If we had to pay them an hourly rate based on their expertise the bill would run into millions. On our books of supporting individuals we have 733 investors, 219 consultants and 78 scientific founders – individuals who collectively generate a whole lot of brainpower. “We are working with some of the best people in their world in their particular science and technology sectors and must ensure we leverage that innovative brilliance and collective commercial expertise.”