Investment firm Atlantic Bridge has launched its second University Bridge Fund with returning support from previous investors and a new university partner.

The €80m University Bridge Fund II will target funding at spin-outs from validated research at Irish universities.

Atlantic Bridge is specifically interested in funding the next generation of deep-tech companies across sectors such as AI, robotics, quantum computing, the internet of things and health-tech. It is also directing this fund towards companies addressing global issues such as energy efficiency, climate, sustainability, carbon reduction and healthcare.

Atlantic Bridge partner Dr Helen McBreen explained that this University Bridge Fund follows the success of the first such fund launched in 2016, “which is ranked in the top five collaborative funds globally”.

To date, University Bridge Fund I has invested in more than 30 deep-tech companies including Neurent MedicalSiren.ioCroĆ­ValveManna and Equal1. Between them, these companies have raised more than €220m in co-investment.

Investors in the first fund – European Investment Fund, Enterprise Ireland and AIB – are recommitting to the second. Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin will continue as university partners along with the addition of University College Cork.

‎“This fund demonstrates how Irish universities can collaborate to create real impact from research for Ireland,” said Trinity College provost Dr Patrick Prendergast.

“This fund … will provide an enhanced opportunity for all third-level institutions to maximise the social and economic impact of their research. It will result in our higher-education sector creating a greater number of high-quality spin-out companies than ever before and can play a tangible role in improving our economy as we recover from Covid.”

Enterprise Ireland has committed €20m to the fund from its €175m Seed and Venture Capital Scheme as part of its strategy to help scale Irish research spin-outs into global companies.

“The University Bridge Fund II … will accelerate the recognition of world-class research generated in all Irish third-level institutions and universities, and the scaling of dynamic Irish start-ups with high growth potential,” said Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon.

Minister for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English, TD, also commended the cutting-edge research and innovation at Irish universities, and their strong track record for creating spin-outs with global potential.

“Ingenuity is more crucial than ever before to meet the global challenges we are facing. By prioritising innovation today, this fund will help more researchers to get viable new businesses off the ground, stimulating the creation of high-quality jobs across the country and shaping the future economy,” he said.

With this addition, Atlantic Bridge now has more than €1bn in capital under its management across eight funds. The firm has more than 80 companies in its portfolio and has helped scale businesses such as chipmaker Decawave, which was acquired last year in a mega deal worth $400m.

Atlantic Bridge estimates that, combined, the University Bridge Funds have the potential to attract up to half a billion euro in investment.

Simon Harris, TD, the Minister for Higher Education and Research, said that his department is committed to “joining the dots” between the technologies developed in the publicly funded research sector with the commercial sector.

“Ireland’s higher-education institutes are delivering world-class research. Translating this research and innovation into real-world impact and investment is a critical platform on which much of Ireland’s economic and social development is built,” he said.

Elaine Burke

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