Cambridge’s investments in 2021 included “anti-slavery” AI and electric vehicle batteries

Cambridge Enterprise’s investments could “create a global impact”, claims the University

University of Cambridge Enterprise’s 2021 Annual Report, published on Thursday (27/1), revealed that the University has invested £5.6 million in a variety of businesses using technologies researched in Cambridge over the last year. This brought Cambridge Enterprise’s investment fund total to £34.4 million, which has been directed at 146 companies since 1995.

Cambridge Enterprise is the commercialisation arm of the University and “supports academics, researchers, staff and students in achieving knowledge transfer and research impact.” In essence, it provides consultancy services and investments to assets and technologies developed in Cambridge, assisting their market entry, outreach and business ventures.

Among the companies on the receiving end of funding from Cambridge in the 2020/2021 financial year were Nyobolt, an electric vehicle battery developer, and Versed AI, which develops artificial intelligence (AI) technology to analyse supply chains.

Nyobolt was the culmination of a decade of research at the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry led by Professor Clare Grey and Dr Sai Shivareddy, who created a new electric vehicle battery that has higher longevity and a faster charging speed than other models. Cambridge Enterprise, along with several “Silicon Valley investors,” was part of an £8 million Series A funding round that helped Nyobolt build and expand manufacturing facilities across the world.

Dr Shivareddy, the co-founder of Nyobolt, claimed that Cambridge Enterprise’s support was “important” and “helped [Nyobolt] to take this technology to market in record time.” According to Cambridge Enterprise, Nyobolt’s technologies are crucial to the development of improved electric vehicles and a “transition to a green, sustainable future.”

The University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory (Image credits: Christian Richardt via the Creative Commons Licence)

In addition, Cambridge Enterprise was financially involved in the commercialisation of Versed AI, an artificial intelligence system developed by postdoctoral researcher Simon Baker at the University’s Language Technology Lab alongside PhD student Pascal Wichmann at the Department of Engineering. Versed AI can “burrow through millions of documents” to build a supply chain map for the company whilst determining potential supply risks.

Among the risks Versed AI can determine is whether second-tier suppliers are breaking anti-slavery legislation. Cambridge Enterprise claims that these risks are often invisible for companies and that Versed AI can help firms “monitor, manage, and mitigate risk in a way that was never possible before.” Versed AI had earlier won the Cambridge Postdoc Business Plan Competition and was the beneficiary of a £1.2 million funding round from Cambridge Enterprise in 2021.

In addition to these two investments, Cambridge Enterprise invested in Cambridge GaN Devices, which uses gallium nitride to make silicon-based semiconductor transistors more effective and efficient. Cambridge Enterprise also hailed that its investees ApcinteX, Morphogen-IX, and Z Factor have merged with seven other companies to form Centessa Pharmaceuticals, a pharmaceutical giant which has seen US$250 million funding (equivalent to over £186 million) and has been listed since May 2021 on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

Cambridge Enterprise retains support from key figures in the University. Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope lauded Cambridge Enterprise as “excellent” in “helping researchers gain the most impact from their research.”

“All globally influential universities must excel in research,” Toope claims. “An investment in research is an investment in the future competitiveness of our innovation economy.”

Feature image credits: N Chadwick via Geograph, under this Creative Commons Licence