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Oxford launches North American start-up scheme that will create 4,000 UK jobs

Research England supports University of Oxford science and technology commercialisation initiative set to raise £1bn in private finance and lead to thousands of UK jobs
The Oxford Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) will bring the brightest entrepreneurial minds together and draw on North American venture capital expertise to propel world-leading ideas from lab to market
Initiative focuses initially on artificial intelligence start-ups and expand into areas including healthy ageing, alternative green energy and quantum technology
An innovative university research commercialisation initiative led by Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford is set to create nearly 4,000 jobs across the UK in artificial intelligence (AI), healthy ageing, alternative energy, and quantum technologies.

Press release from UK Research and Innovation
January 26th 2020 | 983 readers

Photo by Sidharth Bhatia on Unsplash
Photo by Sidharth Bhatia on Unsplash
Funding from Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation, will help Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) Oxford support 225 high-potential early-stage companies from all over the UK, with aims to raise £225m in capital, and generate £900m in equity value. The scheme will help transform some of the UK’s pioneering research ideas into viable products, improving the UK’s entrepreneurial and finance ecosystem, and build on international best practice.

Start-ups involved will benefit from input from technology, finance and science mentors - including Canadian and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors. These include Google's former Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Pichette; Elizabeth Caley, Chief of Staff at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative; and Shivon Zilis, Project Director at Elon Musk’s Neuralink.

The start-ups will produce a range of pioneering products, such as specific AI-enabled medical devices and solutions for the Ageing Society. Previous start-ups involved in the programme in Canada have developed software that automates manual workflows in financial services firms, a brain-imaging platform to quantify and understand brain connectivity, and digital tools to increase employees’ creativity and cognitive performance.

Science and Innovation Minister, Chris Skidmore, said:

“Google was famously founded by two postgraduate students. The UK has world class researchers who can follow their lead.

“This investment draws in Silicon Valley expertise and business knowledge to inspire the next generation of UK entrepreneurs to create the technologies of the future.”

Patrick Pichette of Inovia Capital, Google’s former Chief Financial Officer, and Founding Partner of CDL-Oxford, said:

‘The CDL is a fantastic transition point for UK scientists, academics and developers coming out of the university setting. Productising research can be hard — so it’s really rewarding to help with mentoring and funding their first steps in the business world. Research England will be a great partner in helping build a new generation of tech leadership here in England.’

Saul Klein, co-founder of LocalGlobe and Founder Partner of CDL-Oxford, said:

‘UK universities are producing some of the best science and innovation in the world and we have here in the UK one of the most dynamic and exciting tech sectors, attracting over $13.2bn in venture capital in 2019 and creating 77 unicorns, more than any other country in Europe. But we need to do more to make the transition from the best labs in the country to the marketplace easier for the ideas with the most potential. We're delighted to have worked closely with Saïd Business School in helping to create the UK’s first Creative Destruction Lab and it is hugely exciting to see the programme now broadening to include healthcare and other science-based disciplines because these have the potential to solve some of the biggest problems that the global population now faces.’

Alice Frost, Director of Knowledge Exchange at Research England, said:

‘This project delivers on key ideas from Mike Rees in his advice to Research England. The UK needs entrepreneurial not just financial capital. Start-ups in Silicon Valley benefit from experienced mentors who have already walked the walk – taken a company from an idea in the lab to exit as a major tech company. Oxford has used its brilliant international brand for tech to address this challenge by bringing in mentors from around the world. The programme will put our most promising science start-ups from throughout the UK through a rigorous process of development.’

Bringing CDL to the UK builds on several strengths of UK universities, ranging from the research capabilities in the sciences, to the business and finance expertise in business schools, to the educational capabilities that benefit both start-ups and students in the programme.

A recent report by former deputy CEO of Standard Chartered Bank, Mike Rees, published by Research England in July 2019, revealed that the UK is a world leader in research commercialisation. Oxford CDL will build on this backdrop of success and provide a platform where individuals from across university science and commercial start-ups meet and cooperate in a focused and mutually beneficial way.

The University of Oxford is an important leader and convenor for CDL in the UK given its international brand necessary and capacity attract high quality North American partners, and it has developed its own highly dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem. The university has formed more spin-out companies than any other UK university and now has over 160.

The initiative admitted the first cohort in September 2019. These are focused on 26 early-stage AI companies and will complete by June 2020. The second of several of the cohorts’ sessions, when mentors and start-ups get-together, will take place on 24 January 2020. 


Oxford CDL is financially supported by several prominent private donors, the Canadian Government, Barclays Ventures, the University of Oxford, and £2.6m from Research England’s Development Fund. Barclays Ventures is the first corporate partner to support this initiative in Oxford, as part of its focus on identifying, incubating, and scaling new transformational businesses utilising emerging technologies. Its network of 24 Eagle Labs across the UK supports individuals, businesses and corporates to innovate and grow, and offers great synergies with the Oxford CDL vision.

Creative Destruction Lab -

Creative Destruction Lab Founders and mentors


Patrick Pichette - former Google Chief Financial Officer, currently with Inovia Capital, incoming Chairman of Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), and already an active member of CDL-Montreal
Peter Davies - Senior Partner at Lansdowne Partners and outgoing Chairman of OSI
John McCall MacBain - international entrepreneur, philanthropist, and Second Century Founder of the Rhodes Trust
Mark Evans - Partner at Kindred Capital
The Kavelman-Fonn Foundation
Robin Klein - Founder of LocalGlobe
Kjell Skappel - CEO of TD Veen AS
Niklas Zennstrom - Co-Founder of Skype and Founding Partner of Atomico

Patrick Pichette - former Google Chief Financial Officer, currently with Inovia Capital, incoming Chairman of Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), and already an active member of CDL-Montreal
Elizabeth Cayley - Chief of Staff at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
John McCall MacBain - international entrepreneur, philanthropist, and Second Century Founder of the Rhodes Trust
Mark Evans - Partner at Kindred Capital
Robin Klein - Founder of LocalGlobe
Kjell Skappel - CEO of TD Veen AS
Irina Haivas, Principal at Atomico
Kelly Coyne – Grit Ventures
Shivon Zilis - Project Director at Elon Musk’s Neuralink
Kelly Coyne - Vice President, Global Women’s Strategies, Impax Asset Management LLC and Pax Ellevate Management LLC

Case studies
North (f.k.a. Thalmic Labs), a wearable computing venture
North raised over $15m of equity financing during and shortly after completing the CDL programme in 2013, and by 2019 raised a total of $160m.

Stephen Lake, founder of North, explained: “Companies in the Lab are much less likely to toil away doing the wrong things because while you are in the program, you are held accountable. This way of thinking then persists after graduating.”

Validere offers in-the-field testing solutions for the energy sector, providing software and hardware that reduces operator errors in crude oil testing.

The company was based on a scientific discovery at a Harvard University laboratory, using nanotechnology to visualise physical and chemical properties of liquids. It initially entered CDL with a business plan of applying its technology in the perfumery industry. With the help of mentors, and the MBA students who performed a systematic market and customer analysis, the venture realised that its technology was much more valuable in the oil and gas sector. With that insight, the company raised $1.2m during CDL, and a further $9m in the 18 months following the programme.

Research England Development Fund -
Research England shapes healthy, dynamic research and knowledge exchange in English universities. It distributes over £2.2bn to universities in England every year; works to understand their strategies, capabilities and capacity; and supports and challenges universities to create new knowledge, strengthen the economy, and enrich society. Research England is part of UK Research and Innovation alongside the seven Research Councils and Innovate UK., @ResEngland
UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.  

Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. 

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