The University of Bristol Enterprise Fund – what, when and how?

In my work as Scaleup Enabler for the West of England since June 2017, one of the most frequently mentioned topics is that of ‘regional investment activity’. Urban myth has it that it takes three times longer to raise investment in the South West than it does in London. Whether funds, angel syndicates or VCs, everyone is keen to learn about who is most active and where to find support. Consequently, I spend a fair amount of my enabling time mapping and exploring as much intel as I can find.

In-line with our Engine Shed values, I share as much of this information as I can as openly as possible – when time allows. So you’ll find a simple illustration of the key active investment players in the region here:

You will also find that I run a Quarterly Investment Briefing event and newsletter to help investors to share, learn and connect. You can find out more about that here:

And I have mapped nearly 100 finance or investment related pins on the scaleup support map which I maintain here:

Today I have put the spotlight on one of our most active, locally grown investment funds: The University of Bristol Enterprise Fund.

The Fund is an early stage investment fund backing technologies that have spun out of the University of Bristol as well as companies that are supported by the Bristol SETsquared Centre.

What you need to know:

If you’re interested to apply you should know that there is a two-stage process after you’ve applied. First there is a Pre-screening Panel (which involves UoB and SETsquared staff and mentors) followed by an Investment Committee (made up of UoB staff, SETsquared staff, investors and entrepreneurs).

The fund has already invested in two cohorts of companies (see below to find out more) and is currently raising for a third round of funds to invest in companies that match their criteria.

What stage of investment does the fund support?

The fund generally invests between about £50k and £200k in each company, it won’t lead a round of investment. The investment is on commercial terms and companies will need to have identified and secured a lead institutional investor.

Who can apply?

The fund backs technologies that have spun out of the University of Bristol as well as companies that are supported by the Bristol SETsquared Centre. Investments are made into a broad range of technology areas; however, defensibility is a key question so new “apps”, or software without existing commercial traction, will not generally be considered.

The criteria used to select companies are:

  • Team: quality and experience
  • Market: opportunity, customer interest, size?
  • IP/Product: is it defensible?
  • Finances: credible business plan, clear and credible plan for use of funds
  • Exit: any credible thoughts?

When can you apply?

Assuming the third round of investment is raised, the first call will go out in early March, with the first Investment Committee meeting in early April; and thereafter meetings will be held quarterly.

Who has raised investment through this fund before?

  • NuNano produces probes for Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), a technique that enables force measurement, imaging, and manipulation.
  • Azul Optics is developing affordable, compact devices that can rapidly assess eye health and the risk of developing Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of incurable blindness in the western world.
  • BOXARR is a new and innovative complete full-stack enterprise software platform that enables organisations to visualise their complex systems, identify hidden risks, reveal opportunities, and understand the cascade impact of change.
  • Micrima’s novel breast cancer screening system, MARIA, uses harmless radiowaves to measure very different physical parameters to those exploited by X-rays and provides very new diagnostic information.
  • Exonate is a biopharmaceutical company focussed on the discovery and development of small molecule drugs to address diseases of high unmet medical need.
  • Inductosense provides wireless, battery-free sensors, systems and analytics to help companies overcome current Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) limitations and effectively manage their asset integrity in an automated digital environment.
  • Vitamica is addressing this need by exploiting the diagnostic potential of a photonics technology to provide a rapid method (less than one hour) of differentiating between bacteria that are resistant to an antibiotic from those that are killed by the antibiotic.
  • LettUs Grow design technology for indoor farms of the future using aeroponics – a soil-free growing technique that applies water and nutrients to plants in a fine mist to improve plant growth rates.
  • Duel is a centralised hub for managing Ambassador programs and all elements for Customer Advocacy Marketing for brands.

Find out more:

If you’re an investor and you’re interested to help fund the third round of the Enterprise Fund, join us for the Quarterly Investment Briefing to find out more: or get in contact with Briony (, the author of this article and website.

*This blog is written by Briony Phillips, Scaleup Enabler for the West of England as part of her work to help inform and support fast-growth companies in the region. If you’d like to know more about her work, please explore the website she’s put together: *