Uniseed VenturesA fund that commercialises research partner generated intellectual property based on high technologies
Uniseed was established in October 2000 as a $20 million joint venture between the University of Melbourne (UM) and the University of Queensland (UQ). This proof of concept fund (Fund-1) operated with significant input and support from the commercialization offices of the two universities (UniQuest and Melbourne Ventures Limited), with staff of these organizations making up the majority of the Investment Committee and leading due diligence and management of most investment opportunities. Over 20 investments, typically of $250,000 - $500,000 were made from this fund. A new $40 million venture fund (Fund-2) ran from 2005-15, with the addition of a third leading university, the University of New South Wales, and a major private institutional investor, the Westscheme superannuation fund. The founding universities (UQ & UM) also committed further funds. Australian Super took over Westscheme's essets and commitments in July 2011. With the start of Fund-2, an independent management team was established, consisting of the CEO and three Investment Managers; one at each university catchment. The Investment Committee was restructured, with dedicated committees established for biotechnology or other technologies. The nominal investment limit was increased to $2.5 million to allow participation in follow-on funding rounds so as to preserve Uniseed's equity position. On 1 November 2015, Uniseed started its third and largest fund (Fund-3) with the addition of the University of Sydney and the CSIRO to the Universities of Queensland, Melbourne and NSW. This followed three high profile exits in the preceding 14 months (Fibrotech; Spinifex & Hatchtech). Each of the five partners committed $10 million over 10 years to the new fund (total fund $50 million). Uniseed’s partner research organisations spent nearly $4 billion on research, making up over 40% of the total research spend at 67 research organisations in Australia. Together, these organisations accounted for nearly 500 invention disclosures (34% of total) and 500 new registered IP rights filed (45% of total) over the same period(2013 National Survey of Research Commercialisation). Unlike private venture capital funds, Uniseed is dedicated to the needs of its research partners, and committed to servicing them consistently over the long term, irrespective of the short term conditions in external capital markets. It works in very close partnership with the research partner commercialisation companies and staff, providing a valuable adjunct to the capabilities these companies and staff provide. They in turn provide a best-practice commercialisation service tailored to their respective organisations. These companies are able to leverage to great effect the scale of operation and expertise of the Uniseed network. The fund is run with commercial discipline, ensuring independence and financial rigor in its investment decision-making processes. Success is measured by a balance of return on investment (including the flow of funds for research to further the commercialisation of intellectual property generated within the research partner catchments), the establishment of viable start-up companies, the generation of research income for research partners and the improvement of partner commercialisation processes.