Founders at the University of Cambridge
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    Tech ecosystem champion Gerard Grech to lead flagship Founders initiative


    The University of Cambridge is delighted to announce that Gerard Grech, former CEO of Tech Nation, has joined Cambridge Enterprise to lead a new flagship initiative that will support and accelerate University founders to make an even greater impact on the world in the technology and software sectors.


    Founders at the University of Cambridge is launched as Cambridge looks to become Europe’s centre for science and the main challenger to start-ups emerging from great US universities, in particular MIT and Stanford. The Founders programme will supercharge entrepreneurs building companies within the Cambridge ecosystem, in particular supporting deep tech founders building transformative companies that benefit both society and the UK economy. Recent research from Dealroom shows that while Cambridge is the third most important science hub in the world, it has a greater density of founders per inhabitant than any other global university city, including Boston, Oxford and London.

    Professor Deborah Prentice, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge, said “The launch of Founders at the University of Cambridge demonstrates the University’s commitment to societal impact through entrepreneurship. Gerard Grech’s appointment will offer us the right mix of leadership and experience in the field of technological innovation.”

    Diarmuid O’Brien, Chief Executive, Cambridge Enterprise said “Founders at the University of Cambridge will be a game changer that builds on decades of commitment from the University to entrepreneurship. It is designed to combine capital, networks and talent to scale our spin-out companies more quickly and providing them a platform to make a mark globally.”


    Gerard Grech

    Gerard brings deep experience from his time as founding Chief Executive of Tech Nation, the private and publicly-funded organisation that supported ambitious tech entrepreneurs for almost a decade, across the country. He is also a governing board member of Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. During his time at Tech Nation, the organisation worked with over 1300 digital companies to scale, including a third of all tech unicorns ever created in the UK. Companies supported included Revolut, Deliveroo and Darktrace.

    The appointment of Gerard to lead a founder-focused initiative signals the University’s commitment to commercialising more of its world-leading research into global companies, particularly those tackling problems including climate change and an aging population with technology solutions.


    Gerard Grech credit: Richard Marsham
    Gerard Grech joins Cambridge Enterprise to lead new Founders initiative


    Gerard Grech, Managing Director, Founders at the University of Cambridge, said “I firmly believe significant technological innovation will emerge from the University of Cambridge and its surrounding ecosystem over the coming years. Cambridge already has a global reputation for producing world-leading technology businesses such as ARM Holdings, Darktrace, Featurespace and Healx. As humanity’s challenges grow ever more complex and deeply interconnected, pioneering research and innovation is our key to finding solutions. Creating fertile pathways for our top innovators to bring their game-changing solutions to market is vital and I couldn’t be more excited to be leading Founders at the University of Cambridge at this pivotal moment.

    “With this new commitment from the University and Cambridge Enterprise, entrepreneurs in the city can be assured that this is the ecosystem for them to be in, if they want to make a difference in the world.”


    Cambridge track record of tech success

     Cambridge is one of the world’s leading University-based ecosystems, home to over 5,300 high tech companies. The city is the birthplace of 23 $1 Billion ‘Unicorns’ or privately-owned tech companies and University-backed start-ups have raised over £3 billion in investment and research. A recent report by London Economics said that the economic impact of the University of Cambridge was almost £30 billion a year, or four times that of the English Premier League. Almost 80% of this sum (£23.1 billion of £29.8 billion) is attributable to the commercialisation of research from the University’s research and knowledge exchange initiatives (including commercial companies spun-out from, or closely associated with the University and/or its commercial activities).

    Successful companies arising from the University in recent years include:

    • Nyobolt (High-Power, Fast-Charging Battery Technology) which has raised over £50 million in a Series B
    • Colorifix (revolutionary dyeing process to help the textile industry dramatically reduce its environmental impact) (£25 million)
    • Gyroscope Therapeutics (gene therapy for eye disease, acquired recently by Novartis for up to $1.5 billion)
    • Riverlane (Building the operating system for quantum computers) – (£33 million plus £7.6 million UK government funding)
    • Xampla (plant-based alternative to single-use plastics) – (£8 million)


    Poppy Gustafsson, CEO, Darktrace, said Founders at the University of Cambridge will bring together future founders with global entrepreneurial alumni, local experts and peer role-models, to support and guide founders, particularly those working in deep-tech, to create stronger companies, scaling faster and having greater impact. With a brief to make a measurable economic impact for the whole UK, the programme will particularly focus on companies that bring research-based innovation to bear in solving the problems facing both the UK and the wider world. Founders joining the programme are anticipated to raise over £700 million of investment in the first five years.

    “Cambridge is a fantastic place not just to start, but also to scale a technology business. We have benefitted greatly from being so close to the technology innovators of the future and being able to bring them into our business. I welcome Gerard’s appointment into this new role which underscores the University’s commitment to supporting the future Darktraces out there.”

    Suranga Chandratillake, General Partner, Balderton Capital, said “It’s great to see the University of Cambridge taking charge with their new Founders initiative to accelerate the spinout process. With Gerard’s expertise in fostering innovation and scaling start-ups, I believe his leadership will further help bridge the London and Cambridge ecosystems, driving collaboration and growth of groundbreaking ventures.”



    Gerard Grech images: Richard Marsham