Portico Venture is a pilot programme that aims to give UCL researchers more freedom to take their ideas to market through spinouts. Currently open to Computer Science academics, the programme recognises the huge opportunities in digital tech and accelerates the creation of businesses that can thrive in a fast-moving ecosystem.
The programme is delivered through UCL Business (UCLB) in partnership with UCL Innovation & Enterprise and the Department of Computer Science.
WHO IS IT FOR?
Portico Ventures is only available to Computer Science researchers at this time. It recognises the fact that many of the Department staff in this field have experience of building businesses or have networks that can support them in spinning out successful companies.
Some might have set up businesses in the past, have worked with corporate partners before joining UCL or as part of their research, and have most of the skills, knowledge and contacts to transform their academic focus into a profitable spinout. In such cases, where the researcher can independently drive the process, the benefits should also reflect the increased responsibility. This is where Portico Ventures comes in.
The pilot is open to all Computer Science Department staff – from Professors to postdocs –interested in independently taking to the market solutions based on the know-how, software, algorithms or datasets developed through their work at UCL. They could do so in partnership with researchers from a different UCL department, as long as the lead researcher of the proposed spinout comes from Computer Science. Students – either undergraduate or graduate – cannot access Portico Ventures directly, but could be co-founders or employed by spinouts developed by Computer Science researchers. Speak to our team for further details
How does it work?
The programme strikes a balance between rewarding researchers that decide to independently build a business based on know-how, software, algorithms or datasets developed in UCL and compensating the University for giving the spinout the right to exploit this intellectual property. In exchange for a 6% equity stake in the company, non-dilutive through the first GBP 1million, UCL will give the spinout a clean IP licence and access to a dedicated support framework. The founding team can distribute the remaining equity among themselves (and any other stakeholders, such as early investors), but should include a minimum 10% option pool to incentivise initial employees, advisors, non-executives etc.
Portico Ventures excludes pure consultancy companies and only covers spinouts based on non-patentable IP, which needs to be disclosed at the start of the process. Our team will perform all due-diligence checks on the IP, establishing ownership rights and working out compensation arrangements with all owners. Once an idea is accepted into the programme, founders can use the tools and support developed by Portico Ventures.
UCLB expects to stay a shareholder in the company until an appropriate exit event (e.g. sale, IPO). During that time, it will have regular shareholder rights, including certain information rights to fulfil its reporting obligations to UCL. It is expected that the 6% shareholding will dilute over time as the company raises investment beyond £1m. At an exit, UCLB will share the proceeds from its converted equity according to the UCL revenue share policy, which means that a significant portion of the net income received by UCLB on an exit event will be returned to the Department / UCL.
Researchers interested in providing consultancy services should explore the UCL Consultants model. Those working on patentable technologies should speak to UCL Business about options for commercialising their results.
What are the benefits?
Portico Ventures is designed with the confident researcher-entrepreneur in mind: it aims to allow Computer Science staff to take their ideas forward with greater independence. They would be in charge of devising the spinout’s business plan, making the right connections and discussing investment options with potential funders. The programme would be there to support them by suggesting funding options for any outstanding work, organising investor events, using our networks to help round up spinout teams and introduce them to the experts they might need along the way.
The programme will ensure that the IP required by the spinouts is properly disclosed, as well as that rights and revenue sharing are agreed with all creators before licensing. This is often considered a pre-requisite by venture capital firms looking at investing in spinouts and by tech companies interested in acquisitions, giving the business a better chance of attracting investment. To understand the UCL staff intellectual property rights policy and the full terms of the non-royalties bearing Portico Ventures licence, contact the programme team.
Access to UCL support
While founders take the lead, Portico Ventures allows them to access UCL Business and UCL Innovation & Enterprise resources through our support framework. This includes information on funding sources for market studies and proof of concept, templates for legal and financial documents, networks of experts and potential service providers in fields such as tax, legal advice, accounting and visas, links into the wider London entrepreneurial and investment ecosystem. For full details on the support we provide, have a look at our dedicated page.
Recognition as a UCL spinout
All ideas accepted into the programme will be promoted as UCL spinouts through our website and our networks. Companies selected will also receive a support toolkit, detailing how they can make the best of the wider UCL entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Portico Ventures spinout process
Where to start?
If you already have a business idea, use our confidential form to start a conversation. We aim to respond and arrange a meeting to further discuss your plans within two weeks following this first submission.
What support is available?
While researchers are the driving force behind Portico Ventures spinouts, the programme still aims to provide them with the documentation and the networking they need to succeed. Our businesses have access to a host of templates, guidance notes and contacts that they can rely on at every step in their spinout journey.
How does it fit with UCL and the wider ecosystem?
The UCL ecosystem
UCL has a long history of entrepreneurship and spinouts. Its business arm – UCLB – has been turning exciting technologies into exciting businesses for 25 years. Its list of spinouts includes the likes of Puridify, Satalia, MediaGamma, Autolus, Space Syntax, Chirp and Bloomsbury AI. Portico Ventures will take full advantage of the UCLB experience in spinning out successful businesses and their established relationship to the UCL Tech Fund and the wider London investment ecosystem.
For ideas that are further away from the market, UCL provides translation funding and training through UCL Innovation & Enterprise. Portico Ventures works in partnership with UCL Innovation & Enterprise and will be encouraging applicants to make the most of the funding, accelerating and learning opportunities it offers.
London’s Global University: taking advantage of the capital’s ecosystem
London has one of the most vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystems in the world; the Portico Ventures Programme aims to take full advantage of UCL’s location and networks across the capital, referring our spinouts to London’s wealth of accelerator and incubator programmes, its dynamic VC and business angel communities, as well as the capital’s excellent networks of mentors and experts.