North East university partnership Northern Accelerator has made over £500,000 worth of investments into innovative university spin-out businesses in the health and biotech sectors from its £1.7M Seed Investment Fund.

The business boosting fund, managed by Northstar Ventures, has completed its first two investments which, as part of a wider funding round with other investors, saw two spinouts raise a total of £1,850,000. The fund was officially launched last year to make substantial investments into spin-out businesses with high growth potential, and to attract investors from outside the North East.

One of the first businesses to receive investment was AMLo Biosciences, a Newcastle University spin-out developing diagnostics for early-stage skin cancer. The company received a total investment of £1.5m, £400,000 of which came directly from the Seed Investment Fund. They will use the cash boost to enable a market launch in the UK and prepare for international expansion with the commercialisation of their new melanoma test AMBLor® in the USA and Australia in 2021.

Another major beneficiary is gliff.ai, an artificial intelligence business which specialises in the analysis of imaging technology for X-rays, CT and MRI scans. They raised £350,000 worth of investment, including £175,000 from the Seed Investment Fund, which has seen them increase their employee headcount to ten, seven of whom are PhD scientists. gliff.ai is a Durham University spin-out founded on research into biomedical image analysis. They will be launching their latest AI productivity tools for public sale in 2021.

Alongside the investments for gliff.ai and AMLo Biosciences, Northstar Ventures is actively working with other spin-out businesses from the Northern Accelerator portfolio with strong commercial potential to identify opportunities to invest the remaining £1.2m of the Seed Investment Fund.

Supported by funding from Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, Northern Accelerator has generated a healthy investment pipeline, supporting highly scalable businesses seeking initial and further investment. There are plans for the fund to be the nucleus of a larger venture capital fund, which is in the early stages of development.

Translating research into commercial activity is extremely important at a time when the Government is under pressure from Northern MPs to deliver on their levelling up agenda of rebalancing growth across the UK in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Alan Welby, Director of Innovation at the North East LEP said, “‘Harnessing the power of our world-class university research base to deliver spin-out business, will have a key role to play in meeting the LEP’s target of delivering 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024. Northern Accelerator’s work shows the importance of developing the right ecosystem to translate research ideas into commercial businesses that solve real-world problems. Innovation will be a driver behind the region’s post COVID-19 recovery, which university spin-outs with strong commercial potential will help facilitate.”

Newcastle University Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Chris Day added: “This recent investment is a validation of the excellent work that is being produced from our world-leading academics.

This will continue to help the North East economy by creating new highly-skilled jobs and drawing investment to the region. The Seed Investment Fund will continue to develop more viable businesses and accelerate growth in the North East, building on our existing innovation ecosystems and entrepreneurial culture.”