The backer behind Facebook-owned Bloomsbury AI is raising up to £100 million to find another DeepMind

Google DeepMindGoogle DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, who met his cofounder Shane Legg at UCL.
  • University College London’s spinout fund is raising up to £100 million ($US126 million) to commercialise research and technology coming out of its departments.
  • The idea is to create future success stories such as DeepMind, whose founders met at UCL and went on to sell the artificial intelligence company to Google.
  • The first UCL technology fund backed startups like Bloomsbury AI, which joined Facebook in 2018.
  • AlbionVC, which helps manage the fund, said UCL was on track to create several British unicorns.

A university spinout fund that backed Bloomsbury AI, the artificial intelligence startup acquired by Facebook earlier this year, is looking to raise a second fund of between £75 million to £100 million ($US126 million).

University College London is raising the tranche of money to develop its academic research into commercial companies, akin to Oxford or Cambridge. UCL raised £50 million for its first fund in 2016, and hopes to double the amount for its second.

Both funds are managed by UK venture capital firm AlbionVC and UCL’s commercialisation arm, UCLB.

Andrew Elder, partner at AlbionVC, told Business Insider that the university was on track to produce several unicorns.

Two of the founders of Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind met at UCL’s computational neuroscience unit. It was then acquired for £400 million ($US650 million). A gene therapy startup backed by UCL’s first technology fund, MeiraGTX, raised $US75 million (£60 million) on the Nasdaq when it floated in June. Biotech firm Orchard Therapeutics raised $US225 million (£173 million) through an IPO in November. Bloomsbury AI was bought by Facebook around July.

“It has been a significantly positive return so far, especially relative to a fund of this type and stage,” said Elder.

At least one potential fund backer has dropped out thanks to Brexit. The European Investment Fund, which puts money into European investment firms, is unlikely to invest. It had committed £24.75 million to the first UCL technology fund, according to a Financial Times report at the time.

The UK government’s equivalent, the British Business Bank, is lined up as a replacement investor. The EIF froze its investments into the UK while it evaluated the risks around Brexit.

Other backers include financial institutions, sovereign wealth funds, high net worth individuals, and corporates.

Dr Anna Lane, executive director at UCLB, said in a statement: “The fund has been successful because of its unique investment approach and clear, transparent and supportive processes. We are proud that its early success has meant we need to consider another fund.”

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