Business Technology

The new flowers of Scotland: University of Edinburgh's record number of spin-out ventures

3 min read

24 August 2015

The main focus at this time of year in Edinburgh is usually on the comedians, actors and magicians at the Scottish capital’s annual festival. But another stunning performance has come from the bright entrepreneurial minds at the University of Edinburgh, which has seen a record number of companies being formed on campus in the last 12 months.

According to new figures, the University supported the formation of 44 startups and three spin-out companies in 2014/15 – beating the previous best of 40 new ventures set five years ago. The University said the record-breaking numbers had “strengthened its position as Scotland’s leading research institution”.

It added that investment in the University-founded companies had also hit a record high, with a total backing of £237m ploughed into the new ventures in the past year.

It means that over the last five years, Edinburgh has supported the formation of 184 companies employing a total of 343 people.

According to independent consultancy BiGGAR Economics these new companies have contributed more than £140m to the Scottish economy and helped to create a further 2,300 jobs.

The University puts its success down to the support of its commercialisation arm – Edinburgh Research and Innovation – and a wider enterprise network on campus.

It claimed it was not only leading the way in Scotland but was also helping the city compete with the rest of the UK for new ideas and jobs.

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Commenting on this year’s achievements Grant Wheeler, head of company formation at ERI, said: “Edinburgh is now emerging as the largest technology hub outside London and at the heart of that phenomenon is the University and its enterprise scene. Whether it’s from the world-class research base or from the student entrepreneurs, we’re seeing new companies being formed here and in record numbers. More and more have the potential to develop further.”

The University has a good record of developing quality as well as quantity since the first recorded spin-out, Reynolds Medical over 40 years ago.

More recent commercial successes include spin-out, pureLiFi – a light-enabled technology, developed in the University’s School of Engineering and which has been installed at the home of the Golden State Warriors basketball team in San Francisco.

Another successful venture is Krotos, set up by sound design graduate Orfeas Boteas, and which has developed Dehumaniser sound effects software for film, television and video games and was recently used as the voice of Ultron in the latest Marvel’s Avengers movie.

The University also has high hopes for high-flying technology firm FanDuel, a fantasy sports league enterprise, with roots in the School of Informatics. It recently secured $275m of investment and joins Skyscanner as its second Unicorn company – those worth over $1bn.

The University’s principal, Timothy O’Shea, said: “Edinburgh is amongst the most entrepreneurial universities in the UK. The first class support provided by the University and the wider enterprise support network play an important role, not only in the student experience but in delivering impact for the world-class research coming out of our University.”