A new investment company launched by the universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield to help boost the commercialization of spin-offs and start-ups in the region, has appointed Lord Jim O’Neill as chairman.
Lord O’Neill will help make Northern Gritstone in the region one of the largest investors dedicated to the commercialization of academic intellectual property related to science and technology in the UK.
The company also plans to raise up to £500 million from strategic business partners, institutional investors and qualified individuals.
Lord O’Neill has been an integral part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative in recent years, having chaired the Cities Growth Commission and helping the government implement its Northern Powerhouse strategy as Commercial Secretary to the Treasury.
He is currently vice-chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
Duncan Johnson also joins Northern Gritstone as CEO of Caledonia Investments, the FTSE 250-listed investment firm, where he led Caledonia Private Capital for the past decade.
Previously, Duncan was a founding partner of RJD Partners, a UK sub-midsize private equity fund manager.
Lord O’Neill, Chairman of Northern Gritstone, said: “From the Industrial Revolution to the start of the Digital Revolution, the North has helped fuel our nation’s history. Gritstone’s mission is to go further and unlock the huge business opportunity of our science and technology capabilities.
“For many years, while the region has often been a leader in new inventions – from health technology to artificial intelligence and analytics, to advanced manufacturing, life and biosciences – it still needs to evolve them into bigger and more successful companies, employing more people in higher-paying jobs.
“Historically, northern universities have garnered only a fraction of the funding that others have garnered. More long-term capital to help foster and develop emerging technologies is central to what is needed to determine Northern Powerhouse’s long-term success.
Duncan Johnson, CEO of Northern Gritstone, said: “Our ambition is to generate returns by establishing a world-leading support and funding ecosystem, based on the concepts and inventions that the founding universities and other partners of the company have developed.
“I have been particularly impressed with how the company has assembled a highly experienced team that combines deep investment management with business building expertise, all united by the fundamental belief that profitable organizations delivering first-mover returns quartile to shareholders should have a broader societal objective.”
Commenting on the appointment of the management team, Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester and Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield said: “To be able to attract such a high quality leadership team is testament to the strong track record of our universities as drivers of innovation – collaborating and commercializing our world-class research world, we can create real impact and address global challenges. .
“We welcome Jim and Duncan aboard and look forward to great success over the next few years.”
Alex Macpherson and Andrew Graham have both been appointed independent non-executive directors.
Russell Schofield-Bezer, who has acted as a consultant for Northern Gritstone for the past 12 months, has been named chief operating officer.