UNSW Australia has welcomed the launch of a $50 million investment fund to help bring to market the innovative research and technologies developed at Australian universities.

The new fund has been announced by Uniseed, a venture fund operating at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), University of Melbourne, and University of Queensland.

Uniseed also announced two new partners – the University of Sydney and the CSIRO.

The 10-year investment horizon gives Uniseed flexibility to make longer-term investment decisions and support technologies that could take more than a decade to come to fruition.

The $50 million fund is Uniseed’s third and largest to date. Under the arrangement, Uniseed has access to commercial opportunities arising from the research of its partners and actively works with each organisation’s commercialisation staff.

“We want to see research inventions get out there into society and make a difference to people’s lives,” said Uniseed CEO Dr Peter Devine.

Welcoming Uniseed’s newest members and the new fund, UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said both developments represented a major boost for early investment in innovative technologies.

“Our universities and research institutes are doing world-leading research, developing exciting new technologies, yet there is limited capital available in the current environment to ensure these innovations have the real world impact they should,” he said.

“This new fund will enable us to invest in future-changing technologies and support our world class researchers.

“At UNSW, we also have one of the biggest student start-up programs in the country. Having more early-stage investment capital will allow us to continue helping our aspiring student entrepreneurs,” Professor Jacobs said. 

The new fund will have a 10-year investment horizon and comes as the Australian government seeks to boost the innovation and start-up sectors as growth engines for the economy as it transitions with the end of mining boom.

Its partners collectively account for about $4 billion worth of research conducted each year, representing about 40% of the total research spending at public research organisations in Australia, Uniseed said in a statement.

“We’re excited about applying this new fund to young companies with great discoveries and inventions and giving them the best opportunity to fly,” Uniseed’s Dr Devine said.

“We think our track record of backing companies with great potential, supporting their growth and then exiting when they mature will ensure the success of our new fund.”

Dr Kevin Cullen, CEO of UNSW Innovations, said the new fund would help address a market failure in Australia, where there is little venture capital available for early stage investment in new technologies. 

“By their nature, the research that universities do is on early stage technologies that will typically take 10 years or more to go from invention to commercial deployment,” said Dr Cullen. “This requires early capital, patient capital, and smart capital.”

Dr Cullen said the 10-year investment horizon gave Uniseed flexibility to make longer-term investment decisions than most venture capital firms, and support technologies that could take more than a decade to come to fruition.

Smart Sparrow, an adaptive e-learning platform, and BT Imaging, which provides research and development tools to the solar photovoltaic manufacturing industry, are just two companies spun out of UNSW research currently supported under Uniseed’s investment portfolio.

Dr Cullen said both were on “positive trajectories towards successful exits in the next three of four years”.

Other significant successes for Uniseed include:

  • Hatchtech – a company developing a new treatment for human head lice – was sold to the India-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories in September this year in a deal worth $US200m.
  • Spinifex Pharmaceuticals – a pain drug developer – was sold to Novartis in June 2015 in a deal worth $US700m.
  • Fibrotech – a company developing treatments for fibrosis – was acquired by Shire Pharmaceuticals in May 2014 in a deal worth up to $US557m.

Read more at the Uniseed website.