In a significant move to fuel early-stage life science firms, Future Planet Capital’s seed-stage science fund, the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S), has secured a substantial £29m funding boost from the UK government. The funding, sourced from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD), propels the total size of the fund to over £102m. This injection of fresh capital comes at a pivotal time as the fund prepares to ramp up investments in burgeoning companies within the life science, health tech, and climate sectors.
Science Minister George Freeman expressed that this financial injection will stimulate investment in crucial areas such as innovative cancer treatments and technology targeting antimicrobial resistance. Notably, the backing from the MOD also indicates a likely surge in defence and security innovation spending, a sector which has seen a substantial increase in investment over the past year due to heightened global defence concerns, particularly in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine. This new government support for the fund is part of a broader initiative aimed at transforming the UK into a "science and tech superpower".
UK Science Fund Receives £29m Government Boost
The UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S), a seed-stage science fund managed by London-based venture firm Future Planet Capital (FPC), has received a substantial funding injection of £29 million from the UK government. This support comes from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and is planned to be invested in early stage life science, healthtech, and climate industries.
Capitalizing on the Future
The fresh capital increases the overall size of the fund to over £102 million. Science minister George Freeman stated that this funding will be utilised to stimulate investment in groundbreaking areas like new cancer treatments and technology for identifying antimicrobial resistance. With backing from the MoD, there also seems to be an imminent increase in spending on defence and security innovation. This focus on defence is likely in response to the escalating global tensions and the recent conflict in Ukraine, which has resulted in a surge of investment into the sector over the past year.
Track Record and Future Plans
UKI2S has a strong track record, with around £30 million invested in over 90 firms, yielding more than £700 million in private sector investment, according to company figures. This new government support aligns with the ongoing efforts to establish the UK as a "science and tech superpower" by providing a range of funding for tech and innovation initiatives. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak earlier rolled out plans to attract global tech talent and commit a state-backed investment boost of £370 million.
Industry Criticisms and Concerns
However, these ambitious plans have faced criticism from the industry, with concerns over insufficient financial support and setbacks to innovation in the UK. Ben Clark, director of Future Worlds, a startup accelerator at the University of Southampton, described the financial commitment as merely "a drop in the ocean". Additionally, there have been warnings about the potential damage to the UK’s reputation in the life sciences field due to delays in joining the European Union’s research and innovation scheme.
The significant funding boost to UKI2S highlights the UK government’s commitment to fostering innovation and technological advancement. However, the criticisms and challenges underscore the need for robust, consistent support and international collaboration. The future of the UK as a ‘science and tech superpower’ will be determined by how these issues are addressed moving forward.