The report, sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering, has identified 193 spinouts emerging from Oxford University since 2011, ahead of Cambridge University in second place with 137, with Imperial College London and University College London ranked third and fourth, with 106 and 88 spinouts respectively.
Oxford was also found to have the most active cluster for spinouts, with 90 such firms based in the local authority for Oxford alone. Many of these are have been successful in finding solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the world today. Areas of innovation include sustainable transport, green energy, poverty alleviation, and medical diagnostics.
The report comes after several record-breaking years for innovation in Oxford, tracked by the University’s commercialisation arm, Oxford University Innovation (OUI). Through OUI, the University created 31 new companies during the 2020/21 academic year, bolstered by the University’s support for social ventures.
OUI’s own analysis indicates that Oxford’s output is one of the highest in the world over the period, second only to ETH Zurich in Switzerland. Investment levels are also at their highest on record, with Oxford companies securing over £1bn in external investment over 2020/21.
Oxford Science Enterprises, the science business builder and preferred investment partner of Oxford University, also performed well in the rankings. The firm has completed the most deals with the highest total value for a fund focused solely on a single institution.
The report also shares insights into spinouts across the UK, including university equity stakes. It demonstrates that Oxford University has taken a mean average of 24.3% in equity across its spinouts since 2011. The University’s fact-based approach to equity, which applied until 2021, agreed equity holdings in line with a general trend across all UK universities. In 2021, across all UK universities, the average stake was 20.6% and is in line with the University’s new equity position of 20%.
The report shows that there is still much work to be done to increase diversity in UK university innovation, with 86.4% of founding teams and 92.3% of director teams being all-male. There are signs, however, that this all-male trend is starting to reverse – in 2021, 21.9% of UK spinouts had at least one female founder. As part of an ongoing commitment to achieving strong representation and voice of women in decision-making at all levels, the Increasing Diversity in Enterprising Activities (IDEA) initiative was launched last year at Oxford University to better understand and accelerate diversity and inclusion in innovation and entrepreneurship activities, including spinouts.
The report also found a growing trend of investment into UK spinouts, with £2.54bn invested in 2021 compared to £405m in 2012. Average investment size too is growing, reaching £6.7m per round in 2021, up from £2.01m in 2012.
Professor Chas Bountra, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Innovation at Oxford University, said:
‘Already moving at pace, our innovation ecosystem is rapidly snowballing into something much larger. We are tracking more students, researchers and faculty getting involved than ever before. The University and its partners are building stronger links with industry and investment communities, attracting more support and larger investment rounds. We are building more space for innovation in the city, such as the redevelopment of the Clarendon Centre at the heart of Oxford into a spinout hub. Through this accelerating momentum, the University and its community of innovators and entrepreneurs are able to respond to the biggest crises of the day and deliver technological advancement which has a meaningful and positive impact on society.’
Baroness Nicola Blackwood, Chair of Oxford University Innovation, said:
‘This is an exceptional achievement for the University, OUI, and all those across the maturing Oxford cluster. But there is no room for complacency. We are determined to keep listening and striving to do University-based innovation better because that’s the only way we will play our full role in solving some of the most challenging problems we face today. This is demonstrated by our recent change in equity policy, which means more equity for academic founders and a sustainable plan for reinvestment in the next generation of innovators from the University stake. And our ongoing work to we create an innovation community that attracts and supports diversity at all levels.’
Alexis Dormandy, CEO of Oxford Science Enterprises, said:
‘Oxford University and its partners have established a scientific start-up ecosystem that rivals anywhere in the world. The exciting work being done across life sciences, health tech, deep tech, artificial intelligence, and computing is truly ground-breaking and has the potential to make a positive impact in the real world and improve lives globally. We are extremely proud to be playing a significant part in nurturing this ecosystem, working with brilliant people to transform world-leading science and innovation into world-leading enterprises of the future.’