The University of Melbourne has partnered up with the Victorian government and a venture capital firm to establish two new investment funds that will pump $115 million into research commercialisation over the next decade.
Tanarra Capital will manage the $100 million Tin Alley Ventures Fund, which will support the scale-up, growth and expansion of the university’s startups from seed stage through to exit. A portion of the net profit will also be invested into the institution’s research and social enterprises.
A smaller $15 million fund called Genesis Pre-Seed Fund, which will receive $7.5 million from government-backed investment group Breakthrough Victoria, will also be formed to support early-stage startups created by the university’s academics, students or alumni.
The announcement marks the first-ever university-specific fund to be launched in Australia.
“Universities have a social responsibility to make a difference in the world, and one way we do this is through translating our research into public good,” University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell said.
“The University of Melbourne has a strong track record of applying innovative research, from the Cochlear implant and the Synchron implantable brain-computer interface, through to conserving the world’s oldest Indigenous art through our Grimwade Centre.
“While these success stories are inspiring, Melbourne’s legacy is one of continuing innovation. Our two new funds will play a critical role in supporting researchers to take more risks, to be creative in their thinking and accelerate the possibilities to take research discoveries from an idea to market.”
The new funds build on the University of Melbourne’s existing $10 million Proof of Concept scheme, which provides up to $100,000 in funding for researchers who identify problems people are willing to pay a solution for, find end users, and demonstrate the idea is feasible technically and commercially.
Capital for the Tin Alley Ventures Fund will be raised through external investors, in addition to a $25 million commitment from both the University of Melbourne and Tanarra Capital. The fund will help entrepreneurs grow their team, develop commercial grade products and services, drive customer acquisition and global expansion.
“This is one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done and we’re so proud to be partnering with the University of Melbourne in doing this,” Tanarra Capital founder and CEO John Wylie said.
“We know the potential, the people and the smarts are there, so this is about lighting the match and making it really come to life.”
The Gensis Pre-Seed Fund supports high-potential university ideas and technologies at the early stage, where founders are first getting their research off the ground.
It also aims to address the “valley of death” funding and expertise gap in the initial stages and provide support and access to expertise, networks and mentoring to ensure new startup companies are prepared for seed-stage funding and additional investment.
The fund is expected to make 10-12 investments of between $200,000 and $300,000 into startups each year, with a maximum aggregate of $500,000 over the lifetime of a start-up through their participation in multiple funding round.
Expressions of interest have opened for the Genesis Pre-Seed Fund for people who are interested in establishing a startup or have taken the first step in commercialising university intellectual property (IP).
The fund will also be available to Melbourne University students and alumni later this year.
“Victorian researchers and innovators lead the world in so many areas, and we’re making sure they have the best chance to turn great ideas into great businesses,” Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said.
“Breakthrough Victoria is matching brilliance and inspiration with commercial support and investment in sectors ranging from health to advanced manufacturing – growing jobs and building the economy."
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