University spinout growth booming outside ‘golden triangle’

The latest Spotlight on Spinouts Report by the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub has revealed rapidly growing spinout clusters outside the ‘golden triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and London – with the local authorities of Manchester and City of Bristol demonstrating the highest growth by proportion of spinout population.

According to Beauhurst data, a total of 58 spinouts are now hosted in Manchester and 47 in the City of Bristol, rising from 52 and 42 respectively. The City of Edinburgh, with a total of 78 spinouts, continues to attract companies spun out of universities from other locations in the UK, that choose to operate and grow their businesses within the City due to its strong research institutions, funding ties, and access to top talent.

The third annual edition of the Spotlight on spinouts report follows the recent publication of the UK government’s Science and Technology framework, in which it committed to strengthening the spinout pipeline, and the government’s ongoing review of the UK spinout landscape to identify best practice in turning university research into commercial success.

The data compiled in Spotlight on spinouts analyses which universities are successfully generating spinouts, their geographic spread and IP policies, as well as the top spinout sectors, investors and investees, survival rates and growth trajectories, Innovate UK grants, and spinout leadership composition including gender, age, and nationality.

Findings in the report include:

  • A decade of increased spinout investment - the mean investment size increased by 187% between 2013 and 2022, and the mean deal size across this period was £3.91m.
  • Spinouts attracted a total equity investment of £2.13bn in 2022 – slightly lower than 2021 but investor appetite for cutting-edge innovation remains high.
  • There are 1,166 active spinouts in the UK. Of these companies, 659 (56.5%) are still at seed stage, a similar proportion to the 59.5% that were at seed stage in January 2022 - showing a replenishment of early-stage innovative companies.
  • CleanTech and Genomics are increasingly dominant spinout sectors in the UK. Genomics is the second-largest emerging sector by number of spinouts, while CleanTech ranks fourth across all spinout sectors.
  • A decrease in the mean stake taken by universities in the year of companies spinning out between 2013 and 2022, declining from 24.8% to 17.8% - the lowest average stake by universities taken over the past decade.
  • A substantial increase in spinouts founded by all-women teams – from 0% of spinouts incorporated in 2016 to 12.8% of spinouts incorporated in 2021.

The Academy’s annual Spotlight on spinouts report aims to highlight the UK’s IP and commercialisation trends to inform national debate and future policy and build upon the Enterprise Hub’s work to support spinouts and entrepreneurs.

The Academy’s Enterprise Hub celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2023 and currently supports the creation of up to 16 spinouts each year through its Enterprise Fellowships programme and recently published its Entrepreneur’s Handbook, a practical guide for entrepreneurs wishing to spin out from universities based on the experiences of its Hub Members. Additionally, the Academy is also developing an ambitious new EDI platform to support spinouts and other engineering startups and scaleups with tools to foster inclusive company cultures.

Minister for Science at the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology George Freeman MP said: “Better converting academic leadership in science and engineering into commercial success is crucial for the UK’s economic and geopolitical security.

“Spinning-out and scaling-up ideas and innovations from labs into companies is also key to widening and deepening our UK Innovation Economy and Opportunity Society - creating exciting new career paths and investment in high-tech clusters all around the UK.

“From Glasgow’s satellite city to Warwick Robotics, South Wales Semi-Conductors and Solent MarineTech, the UK is home to many high growth R&D clusters.

“This report shows that with the right backing, we can make a success of spinning out businesses in every part of the country.

“That’s why we are committed to increasing public expenditure on R&D to £20 billion per annum by 2024/2025, and we are delivering our £280 million Higher Education Innovation Fund to support spin outs.

“As this report helpfully highlights - we are determined to unlock new sources of investment to accelerate this important sector even more in the coming years.”

Maria Dramalioti-Taylor, Founding Partner at Beacon Capital LLP, Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Committee Member, and member of the project steering group, said: "The Spotlight on spinouts sheds light on critical trends that spinout founders, investors and policymakers must take into account. The remarkable growth of university spinouts outside the 'golden triangle,' exemplified by Manchester, Bristol, and Edinburgh, presents a compelling case for nurturing innovation hubs across the country.

"The report also highlights two encouraging developments: the substantial increase in spinouts founded by women that showcases the expanding inclusivity within the entrepreneurship landscape, and the decrease in universities' average stake that signals a shift towards more balanced partnerships that empower spinout founders. By championing gender diversity and fostering equitable collaborations, we can foster a thriving ecosystem that supports the growth of university spinouts, unlocks their potential, and propels the UK's innovation-driven economy forward."