Oxford University rejected claims that Cambridge produces better startups

Oxford University has rejected claims made by a Google venture capitalist that rival Cambridge has the edge when it comes to spinning out startup companies from university labs.

Responding to an article published on Business Insider last Sunday, Oxford University Innovation, the university’s technology transfer business, said the wild success of chip designer ARM and search company Autonomy skew the picture in Cambridge’s favour. The businesses were sold for £24 billion and £8 billion respectively.

“We’re ahead in spinout (ie. startups with university IP) generation by a country mile,” said Gregg Bayes-Brown, a marketing and communications manager at Oxford University Innovation, in an email to Business Insider. “I think Cambridge had five or six new companies last year, we had 21 (plus another three startups).

“If you look at the data, Oxford University Innovation has consistently outperformed our peer, Cambridge Enterprise, in every metric over the years.”

Gregg Bayes Brown OxfordUniversity of OxfordGregg Bayes-Brown, a marketing and communications manager at Oxford University Innovation.

Bayes-Brown went on to point to a number of recent Oxford University spinout success stories. “Oxford Nanopore, Immunocore, and Adaptimmune are all ours, and are the biggest names currently in UK life sciences,” he said.

“More generally, Cambridge’s companies have a combined exit value of £1.3 billion since 2011, we’re well over £2 billion. In the same time frame, we’ve raised £1.5 billion in external fundraising, a figure Cambridge lags behind. In 2016, they raised £5.3 million in seed investment. We raised £52.6 million — nearly ten times as much.”

The claim that Cambridge has an edge over Oxford when it comes to startups was made by GV (formerly Google Ventures) venture capitalist Tom Hulme during a recent interview with Business Insider, but it’s a view shared by a number of other entrepreneurs and investors.

Hulme said that both Oxford and Cambridge have an excellent reputation for startup creation but he argued that Cambridge has been better at spinning out interesting companies based on scientific research.

“One of the interesting challenges of Oxford is, if you look at their base of academic research, it is world class,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s ever translated into a throughput of startups.”

Hulme added: “In many ways I think Cambridge’s funnel was more efficient historically because of Cambridge Angels and CIC (Cambridge Innovation Capital).”

Over in the US, some of the world’s biggest technology companies have their roots at Stanford including Google, Sun Microsystems, Cisco, and Yahoo, while Facebook was born at Harvard.

Cambridge University did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

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