Historically too often investors have missed out on backing seed and early-stage businesses emerging from Britain’s world-leading university ecosystem.

Put off by lack of knowledge, complexity or the challenge of understanding businesses building entirely new categories which may not yet exist, this trend has also seen promising companies fail to access the funds and support they need to scale.

Today the North of England is host to some of the most exciting start-ups in the world, applying cutting-edge technology to solve some of the biggest challenges we face.

Northern Gritstone’s unique model addresses the challenges which have held back both investors and founders, unlocking investment in the next generation of unicorn businesses and global leaders.

At the core of our investment philosophy is the idea that science and technology emerging from the North of England’s leading universities has the potential not only to deliver lasting impact and fuel job creation in the region, but also build long-term value.

In this way, we bring to life our founding philosophy of ‘profit with purpose’ combining attractive returns for our shareholders with the positive impact we make on society and the economy, bringing investment to parts of the UK which have historically attracted less venture capital than other regions.

Reflecting the world-class research strengths of the Universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield, there are specific verticals where we see the most significant opportunities.

These include life sciences, backing businesses transforming lives through applying foundational research and Intellectual Property (IP). One example is Imperagen, a spin out from the University of Manchester using its proprietary technology to accelerate the design, optimisation, and validation of novel enzymes for large molecular drug discovery.

Artificial Intelligence, and the development of the technologies enabling the advances in autonomous machines forms another key strand of our investment activity. In June, we announced our investment in Opteran Technologies which commercialises research on insect brain patterns, re-engineering these into software for autonomous machines in managing complex visual and navigational challenges.

The North’s capabilities in materials science and ‘hard tech’ – which draw on the industrial past of the region – are also a huge area of untapped opportunity. In Sheffield, Iceotope Technologies has developed precision immersion cooling technology which is helping data centres achieve net zero. This technology has been developed at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

And then there is the world-class deep tech that is endemic to all three institutions.  Businesses such as Slingshot Simulations, Cavero Quantum and Four Xtra, who are all looking to spin-out from the University of Leeds, illustrate the depth and breadth of the deep tech opportunities available to Northern Gritstone.

To ensure that these businesses and those like them succeed, they need to be able to draw on capital and support which takes a long-term view of value creation. That’s why Northern Gritstone exists – to be part of the solution to a generational challenge – and this is where we’ll be focusing our resources over the coming months and years as we grow our investment pipeline and continue to support ambitious founders in building the future.

By Duncan Johnson, Chief Executive Officer at Northern Gritstone