Many of the world’s most pressing problems — from addressing climate change, developing sustainable food and water systems, and improving human health and wellbeing — depend critically on the successful commercialisation of fundamental science and engineering innovations that are often referred to collectively as “Deep Tech”. Deep tech is a cornerstone of continued advances in new technological paradigms such as quantum computing, advanced materials, synthetic biology, and numerous other innovations that arise from fundamental science and tangible innovation.
While Venture Capital (VC) remains a powerful source of risk capital to build traditional digital and technology ventures, the nature of deep tech ventures often makes them a poor match for VC investment: they have longer timelines before they can commercialise and generate revenue, the technology and market risks are significant, de-risking these technologies is capital-intensive, and the high standard of science is not easily matched with commercial experience of the same calibre. Together, these factors imply that many high potential ventures are either spun out too early or undercapitalized, leading them to fall into the “valley of death” between university research programmes and commercially viable investments.
As a society, we urgently need new tools and commercialisation models to support Deep Tech entrepreneurs looking to translate fundamental science and engineering discoveries into commercial applications.
We seek to understand and address the key barriers to the successful commercialisation of deep tech ventures. Building on Imperial’s strong research foundation in Science, Engineering and Medicine, and our entrepreneurial culture, we strive to collaborate and support a thriving Deep Tech ecosystem across the UK and beyond.
We are currently focused on three inter-related areas of work to help Deep Tech “moonshots” achieve their full potential.
Our three inter-related areas of work
Too often, Deep Tech ventures are spun out of university labs before they are commercially viable and are unable to garner the support they need from traditional funding resources.
The reasons for this are multi-faceted, but broadly encompass the fact that the current approach to commercialisation – which is optimized to support information technology or software ventures – does not transfer seamlessly to most Deep Tech startups.
Key to our initiative is a commercialisation strategy and funding model that is specific to the commercialisation challenges faced by Deep Tech ventures so as to get them further along the path to commercial viability before they spin out and seek financing to grow and scale.
Ecosystem and Policy Support
While commercialisation support that is tailored to Deep Tech startups is important, we aim to establish a systems-level view to address ecosystem and policy challenges, without which commercialisation support for Deep Tech startups will not be as effective.
These pertain to training and educational resources that are tailored to the needs of Deep Tech ventures, supporting the effective design of innovation and capital markets policy, and facilitating the hiring of strong technical and business talent into Deep Tech ventures.
By engaging and advising entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and other stakeholders, we want to address such system-level barriers that can inhibit the development of a vibrant Deep Tech ecosystem.
We are developing a research platform to inform evidence-based best practices specific to Deep Tech. This will form the foundation for our commercialisation and ecosystem support.
Among other elements, this involves developing comprehensive panel data on the lifecycle of Deep Tech ventures that enables a feedback loop between an understanding of the barriers to Deep Tech entrepreneurship and the efficacy of different commercialisation and policy approaches to address them.