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New Head of Funds for The FSE Group’s East of England Region

The FSE Group is delighted to announce the appointment of Allen Hall as Head of Funds, East of England.

Allen has spent his 35-year banking career within both the corporate and commercial sectors, holding senior positions with large institutions including NatWest, Santander and RBS.  Most recently, Allen was appointed Regional Director for Reliance Bank, and was responsible for developing commercial business in the Midlands and East of England. Allen will be based out of the Ipswich office heading up a team of Investment Managers and Grant Scheme Managers.

Julie Silvester, Head of Commercial commented: “We welcome Allen as Head of Funds for the East of England region. He brings with him a wealth of experience which will expand and grow The FSE Group’s strong history in supporting SMEs across the East of England. I am pleased to welcome Allen to The FSE Group and feel that his professional approach and forward-thinking mindset will be a fantastic edition to our already well-established East of England Team.”

The FSE Group manage several funds across The East of England including: The East of England Regional Growth Loan Schemes, Herts LEP SME Growth Loan Scheme, Hertfordshire Business Expansion Grant Scheme and the New Anglia Growing Business Fund. Through these funds eligible SMEs can secure up to £500k in funding. To date the loan funds have supported over 225 businesses agreeing more than £27.5m and leveraging a further £75m of other finance into growth-oriented SMEs. Companies supported have created nearly 1,100 new jobs in the East of England region.

Allen Hall, Head of Funds, East of England added: “I am very pleased to have joined The FSE Group after working in financial services across the East of England for over 20 years. My background has enabled me to gain a thorough insight into the financial industry from both a national and regional perspective which I will use to support and champion local businesses. I am really looking forward to working with the team, so that we can further expand our client portfolio and provide the much-needed access to finance for our region’s growing SMEs, which will in turn strengthen the region’s economy.”

In-Space Mission Secures £300k Growth Loan from Enterprise M3 Funding Escalator

Alton based In-Space Missions, is the latest company to secure funding from the Enterprise M3 Expansion Loan Scheme. The £300,000 loan will help the business grow its innovative “Space as a Service” model.

In-Space Missions was established in 2015 by Tony Holt and Doug Liddle to provide a managed service that would enable customers to access space, reducing their costs and helping them overcome the barriers to entry when breaking into the space market. The company began operations at the BASE Innovation Centre in Bordon and recently expanded into new offices in Alton, Hampshire with dedicated manufacturing facilities.

In-Space Missions are world-class experts with a new space approach offering “Space as a Service” to commercial and government customers. This can involve the design, build, launch and operation of satellites and offers low-cost payload flight opportunities. The In-Space model allows for much quicker and easier access to space for customers who take a ‘slot’ on board rather than having to manage the entire mission themselves. Increasingly it is also becoming possible for a customer to upload their payload onto a satellite already on orbit.

This innovative solution at market disrupting prices, has led to significant demand for In-Space’s services, leading to rapid company growth. The funding will be used to finance the move to the new premises to accommodate additional staff and provide increased manufacturing capability, as well as part-funding the development of a higher performance satellite platform.

Tony Holt, CTO and Co-Owner of In-Space Missions, commented: “At In-Space Missions we are passionate about using our experience and innovative approach to democratise space, opening up the benefits of this sector to more businesses across the globe. This EM3 expansion loan will help us increase our capacity to deliver “Space as a Service” and achieve this goal. The FSE Group has recognised the potential of our business model and we are grateful to Derek and the team for their support in helping us secure the funding to drive our business forward.”

The global space economy is expected to grow by a third over the next five years, taking its value to almost $560billion. This is being fuelled in part by the “New Space” phenomenon: a series of technological and business model innovations that have led to a significant reduction in costs and resulted in the provision of new products and services that have broadened the existing customer base.

Derek Ellis, Investment Manager at The FSE Group, which manages the EM3 Expansion Loan Scheme on behalf of Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), added: “The growth in this sector is leading to an increased market demand for affordable access to space. In-Space Missions’ highly experienced team have developed a much sought-after, low-cost satellite solution. With the space industry emerging as one of the most lucrative sectors globally, the team is on the precipice of exponential growth and we are thrilled to be helping them reach their potential.”

Rob Dunford, Director – Business Delivery, Enterprise M3 LEP, comments: “It’s fantastic to see In‐Space Missions expanding in Alton. This is yet another demonstration of how an important company in our Space Cluster is going from strength to strength. The space sector has been identified as a key high‐value sector in our Revive and Renew recovery Action Plan, so to see In‐Space Missions grow and develop this larger space, with increased clean room capacity is both exciting and encouraging.”

 The EM3 Expansion Loan Scheme is part of the Enterprise M3 Funding Escalator, £10million initiative funded by Enterprise M3 LEP. The escalator, which also includes a short-term trade loan scheme and an equity growth fund, provides eligible companies with loans and equity funding between £50,000 and £300,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities across the EM3 area.

For more information about the Enterprise M3 Expansion Loan Scheme please visit or contact Derek Ellis at tel:  01276 607302 / 07542 609755

For more information about In-Space Missions Limited, visit:

‘Steaming’ Ahead with Renowned Equine Business Haygain


Back in 2016, Edzo Wisman, already a successful businessman having held senior long-term directorships across different sectors, joined Haygain; a Berkshire based growing equine SME specialising in the steaming of hay to remove dust, mould and fungal spores, which can cause serious respiratory problems in horses.

Spluttering into the future with some equine concerns

Whilst hay makes up almost all of a horse’s diet, in the late 20th century, little was known about the possible damage which the mould, fungal spores and bacteria within it could potentially have on the animals.

Fast forward into the 21st century and Haygain started working with specialists from the University of Bristol and the Royal Agricultural University after observing coughing, spluttering and nasal discharge from his own horses.

Edzo explains “Haygain was set up to try and find a solution to a real problem affecting the equine industry. The team spent a decade working with these institutions, to pioneer the development of an effective technique for properly cleaning hay, that could have a significant impact on the health of a horse.”

Together, they developed a range of hay steamers which inject steam into the centre of the hay. This is the only method that has been proven to completely eliminate mould, fungal spores and bacteria and reduce equine respiratory problems.

The FSE Group gallop into the picture

All of this research and development, whilst worthwhile, was proving costly and, with a wish to grow the business further, Edzo had success finding equity funders to grow the business but found it difficult to secure traditional debt funding.

In 2017, he contacted The FSE Group which, through its various regional funds under management, is able to support eligible, ambitious and innovative SMEs that may have been unable to source funds elsewhere.

Haygain successfully secured its first Thames Valley Berkshire (TVB) Expansion Loan in 2018, to help it achieve its ambitious growth plans. Now with the funding secured, it was time to put stage one of the plan into place.

The company has since secured further TVB expansion funding from The FSE Group, taking the total to £482,000 across 3 loans. Of particular benefit to Haygain, were the thorough procedures and loan approvals processes implemented by The FSE Group when providing the finance, giving the equity holders the reassurance required that Haygain successfully fulfilled this criteria.

Haygain’s growth races forward

Since 2018, the business has almost tripled in size. It is now a leading international equine health company, maintaining an impressive customer list that includes leading race-horse trainers and stables, Olympic medal winners, and London’s Metropolitan Police. 

The Company is revolutionising the global horse care industry with progressive products such as high-temperature Hay Steamers, ComfortStall Orthopaedic Sealed Flooring and its Forager Equine Slow Feeders.

Most recently, at the end of 2020, Donna Noce Colaco was appointed as Chair of Haygain’s Board of Directors. Donna, until recently on the executive committee of Fortune 500 companies in fashion and furniture retail, is known as a strategic leader, transformational brand architect and a catalyst for growth. She has brought her extensive expertise in corporate marketing and customer experience to help broaden Haygain’s reach and impact.  

Simon Blackbourn, Investment Manager at The FSE Group, commented: “Growing a business isn’t always straightforward or simple. There can be hurdles en route that perhaps weren’t obvious to start with but which need to be overcome. We could see all the research and development which had gone into Haygain’s Hay Steamers, with equity investment helping to grow the business, so it has been really rewarding to be able to provide funding from The Thames Valley Berkshire (TVB) loan scheme to further support Haygain, allowing them to grow to the next level, develop their products and to be able to bring Donna onto the Board of Directors. We are really excited to accompany Edzo and the team on the next part of their journey.”

Edzo Wisman, CEO at Haygain, said: “We were really pleased that The FSE Group was able to support our growth plans and see the additional markets that we could tap into. We have always had regular face-to-face meetings, be that in person pre COVID-19, or via Teams or Skype now and have never felt left to just get on with it. Simon is always at the end of the phone if I have a question and it is a great working relationship. We are excited about what we have in the pipeline for the future.”

If you would like to learn more about Haygain’s extensive range of products and how they could work for you, please contact them directly or visit their website: or contact them: / 01488 854005

The Thames Valley Berkshire Expansion Loan Scheme is available within Berkshire to established SME businesses requiring finance to implement expansion activities that will deliver substantial growth.

For more information, visit: Thames Valley Berkshire Funding Escalator or contact, Simon Blackbourn: / 07436 189762

From “Hear” to There: Helping Students Fulfil their Potential


For over a decade, Woking based Jeremy Brassington has been supporting students who have hearing impairments or dyslexia, to ensure they have the same route to education as able-bodied individuals.

Hearing how it all began

What is now known as Note Taking Express, an easy-to-use application for recording lectures and meetings, originally started out as Conversor, an Assistive Listening Device (ALD).

Typically, students at colleges and universities attend lectures, seminars and tutorials taking pen to paper to make notes from lectures and then write up their rough notes, transforming them into papers, dissertations and theses.

Imagine doing this if you were deaf or dyslexic? You may be able to lip read but may not be able to have the best vantage point in the lecture hall to keep up, or you may have trouble getting the letters in the right order and not be able to make sense of your notes. This can be incredibly difficult and a barrier to demonstrating your understanding of the subject in order to meet the grade.

Listening to advice

Jeremy worked closely with education bodies and further developed Conversor, the Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs), into Note Taking Express – an intuitive, feature rich application and PC programme for recording lectures, meetings and tutorials.

This was made possible by, and coincided with, changes to the government’s Disabled Students’ Allowance scheme, which embraced the use of apps and lecture capture systems over digital voice recorders and in-class notetakers, opening up a whole new world to students. No more worrying about sitting in the right place to lip-read or taking down the letters in the right order, just sit back, listen and record.

Hearing loud and clear

Software and technology are improving rapidly and the Enterprise M3 Funding Escalator has been proud to support Jeremy on his journey to continue to develop his product, raise awareness and ensure it reaches out to more students, helping them to benefit and assist them to achieve their potential.

Jeremy Brassington, CEO of Note Taking Express: “Automatically generating lecture transcripts, summary notes and key concepts is incredibly valuable for these students. Note Taking Express synthesises information into a format which they feel comfortable using for further study or revision. This means that students have a useful stock of material after each lecture and are free to engage and participate in the lecture while recording it on their phone, tablet or laptop. The financial support, which we received with Derek’s help, has been invaluable and will enable us to assist more students who may otherwise have had a significant disadvantage.”

Derek Ellis, Fund Manager for The FSE Group: “This amazing product will give every student, regardless of ability, access to notes and a note writing platform which suits their individual needs. This could completely change the learning process for students who would otherwise have struggled to fulfil their academic potential. We look forward to seeing what the company can achieve in the next stage of its growth journey.”

Kathy Slack OBE, Enterprise M3 LEP CEO: “I’m delighted Enterprise M3 has been able to fund this innovative and exciting company at a time when students, particularly those with additional needs, are reliant on technology more than ever. Products like this are game changing for young people who need additional help and it’s wonderful that the Expansion Loan Scheme has made such a difference for Note Taking Express and all those whose academic lives will be made easier because of the product.”

For more information about the Enterprise M3 Expansion Loan Scheme visit or contact Derek Ellis at tel: 01276 607302 / 07542 609755

For more information about Note Taking Express: Visit or contact Jeremy Brassington at

The “Going” is Good, the “Stick” is from TurfTrax


Horse racing is an ancient sport whose origins can be traced back to circa 4500 BC. It is currently the second most popular spectator sport in the UK, coming only behind football. According to industry surveys’ approximately six million people attend the races each year in Britain alone.

However, to the average racegoer, little is known about the behind-the-scenes preparation that goes on to deliver these events.

“Sticking” to tradition with The Clerk of the Course

Before any racing can commence, The Clerk of the Course, responsible for track management and race day preparation at a racecourse must undertake a course inspection. This means that he must make an informed assessment on the state of the ground and then declare whether that ground is deemed “fit or unfit” for the horses to race on. Official going descriptions are measured on a scale from Firm to Heavy (very soft) with four points in between.  If the ground is unfit, the race will be called off. If the ground is fit, race day is on. Owners and trainers receive this crucial information to determine whether the ground conditions are suitable for their particular horse or horses before deciding whether to race.

Q: So, what important apparatus is used to perform this crucial task?

A: A simple traditional stick.

As recently as the late 1990’s, this manual task was carried out solely by pushing a stick into the ground at various points around the course to ascertain the course conditions. The Clerk uses the stick to analyse the surface in order to determine what “the going” is. It is inserted into the ground and conclusions drawn on soil type, dirt, density and the amount of moisture in the ground, all of which can affect a horse’s performance. Once determined, this crucial ground information is passed to horsemen and bookmakers. These statistics, together with information on breeding and past performances, bookmakers can then decide on their odds to offer racegoers.

TurfTrax – Delivering an odds-on favourite product

In November 2000 British racing’s regulator, The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) approached Cambridgeshire based company TurfTrax, to create a technologically advanced measuring device (stick), for the systematic and objective assessment of track conditions on British racecourses.

TurfTrax is a world leading, technologically advanced company focussed on improving both standards and data to enhance sporting and leisure events. The BHA also recognised the company’s expertise in soil physics/sports turf management which is the critical information passed to owners and trainers to make their decisions and then onto bookmakers.

Mike Maher, Founder and CEO of TurfTrax explains: “The Industry, has always used traditional sticks to understand track conditions. There was a lot of nervousness, apprehension and uncertainty about moving to a more advanced measuring stick. I knew that much research and testing lay ahead, not only to produce the correct device, but after years of using traditional methods, the industry would have to build up that position of trust in this product which we had been commissioned to design. However, this type of project had never been undertaken before and we were unsure as to the R&D costs. Being a young SME, it proved challenging to secure funding to sustain the project, so I was sign-posted to Finance East (FE) based in Ipswich to see if we would be eligible. I am pleased to say that Francis Kenealy and the Finance East team agreed!”

TurfTrax worked extensively for many years with some of the UK’s leading soil scientists and in collaboration with Cranfield University. After design and extensive testing in the controlled environment of Cranfield’s unique soil laboratory facilities, live on-course trials started in late 2001. Testing of the device involved device calibration at all 59 UK racecourses. Over 100,000 unique measurements were taken covering all ground conditions and these were compared and analysed against the subjective assessments made by the Regulator’s officials and experienced course representatives.

After over five years in development the advanced measuring device was produced, and later was to become mandatory at all UK turf courses.

And the winner is: “The GoingStick”

Together with his collaboration with Cranfield University they launched The GoingStick. Miles away from the traditional stick, The GoingStick accurately measures the required statistics to record “the going” of the ground. The GoingStick accurately measures the penetration (the amount of force required to push the tip into the ground) and the shear (the energy needed to pull back to an angle of 45 degrees from the ground). These two measures taken in combination represent a scientifically based proxy for the firmness of the ground and level of traction experienced by a horse during a race.

The information is automatically stored in the GoingStick memory and an average of all readings can be provided instantly. The information can be downloaded and printed out from a PC using TurfTrax software.

A furlong ahead and galloping into the future

From March 2007, all UK turf racecourses were required to issue a GoingStick reading with their official pre declaration and race day Going report. It is now mandatory at all UK, French, German, American, Hong Kong and Australian turf courses.

Mike’s company has gone from strength to strength. To complement the GoingStick his product range has expanded to include:

  • GoingMaps – To accompany the GoingStick they provide owners and trainers with a detailed, accurate and up to date representation of the ground conditions
  • TurfTrax Weather Systems – An easily accessible and accurate log of both historic and real time climate conditions enabling better informed turf management decisions
  • TurfTrax Tracking – A world leading real time location system, accurately tracking and timing horses during their race. This works with leading bookmaker’s apps allowing racegoers to make informed decisions as to how their horse is doing in the race and whether they should “check-out” or not

All of TurfTrax’s technology is accredited by the BHA.

Used in conjunction, these products combine to produce unique and commercially valuable data sets for individual racecourses and specific race meetings.  Data is archived by TurfTrax creating a database of detailed historical information which can be used to assist in a variety of track management applications. 

A recent further development is WeatherTrax Live which made its debut at the iconic Royal Ascot fixture in 2020 and has since been rolled-out at Newmarket, the home of British Flat racing, Kempton Park, the Cheltenham Festival and at Aintree, host to the world’s most famous steeple chase, the Grand National.

Delivered via a dedicated webpage WeatherTrax Live streams accurate real-time weather data direct from the on-course weather station including rainfall, air temperatures, wind speed and direction and humidity alongside official going descriptions, GoingStick readings, Going Maps and rails positions.

Finance East (FE) were favourites to assist with TurfTrax’s growth plans

FE is The FSE Group’s regional funding organisation for the six counties of the East of England, providing an alternative source of term debt finance supporting high-growth businesses.

Francis Kenealy, Fund Manager at Finance East comments: “I first met Mike nearly 10 years ago and was really pleased to be able to help him secure debt funding for his business. Running a business is hard anyway but working within an industry that is quite traditional and somewhat untrusting of modern technology requires patience! Mike had the vision that the GoingStick was absolutely the right product for the job, in fairness as did the industry, it was just going to be a slow process to build the trust backed up with the results from trials. I was able to help Mike secure term debt finance so that TurfTrax could invest in the necessary development and trials to take the product forward and to prove its worth in the marketplace and to prove that the GoingStick really is the holy grail of data relied upon by owners, trainers and bookmakers. I am so pleased to see his range develop and to go from strength to strength.”

If you would like to find out more about The GoingStick, you can contact Mike Email: Tel:  01480 408970 or visit:

Bespoke Jewellery Designer Receives Growth Loan & CBILS Funding from Greater London Investment Fund (GLIF)

To support their growth ambitions, London based Taylor & Hart has secured a total of £500,000 in loan funding from the Greater London Investment Fund (GLIF) this includes £250,000 in conjunction with the government backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Established in 2011 by friends Nikolay and Shane, Taylor & Hart began when a close friend approached them to design a custom-made engagement ring for his girlfriend. He was looking for something as remarkable and personal as his love. After careful sourcing, sketching, and plenty of secret meetings, Taylor & Hart’s first bespoke ring was created, beautifully unique and one of a kind. From there a dream shared by two friends took shape – to put the magic back into bespoke jewellery.

It is estimated that in the UK sales of diamond jewellery are circa £3bn, £600m of which is believed to relate to bridal jewellery, driven by 250,000 annual weddings. Over the years, Taylor & Hart has expanded across the world into a lively and devoted team of creative thinkers. But even though their business has grown into a widespread and diverse community, they have never let go of their commitment to meaningfully designed jewellery inspired by human connection.

Nikolay Piriankov, CEO and Co-Founder of Taylor & Hart commented: “Our commitment is to always offer a heartfelt and hands-on approach to bespoke engagement ring design. Shane and I have always strongly felt that jewellery is and always has been an expression of human stories. This loan from GLIF will enable us to provide cover for existing salaries and marketing costs to offset the reduction in sales growth arising from COVID-19 and to maintain our market position. In addition, we will also be able to recruit new employees to join our team and dedicate some of the money to increase our marketing strategy.”

Kala Desai, Head of Funds for The FSE Group, who manages the £55 million GLIF debt fund on behalf of Funding London, commented: “GLIF supports innovative high growth businesses in Greater London. We were impressed by Taylor & Hart and their premium bespoke range of jewellery which fills a growing gap in the market. They have demonstrated commercial traction even in these unprecedented times, which is one of the key attributes for commercial success. We are pleased to be supporting them and look forward to the next stage in their journey.”

Maggie Rodriguez-Piza, CEO at Funding London, adds: “We could see a clear strategy from Nikolay and Shane, to transform their premium jewellery business. However, it was apparent, the team needed additional capital to facilitate this transformation. With the investment from GLIF and the continued support from Kala and her team, Taylor & Hart, will soon be able to accelerate sales growth, recruit new team members and expand market strategy. We wish Nikolay, Shane and the team, the best of luck over the coming months.”

Kickstart your Monday with a Celebration of Women in Business

This year, International Women’s Day (#IWD2021) falls on Monday 8th March and what a good way to start the week!

In the early 20th century, Emmeline Pankhurst founder of the suffragette movement, led marches and fought for women to have a voice and be equally heard like their male counterparts. Since then, women have proved that in this ever-changing and challenging world, they are helping to forge a gender equal environment where they are not intimidated by the challenges which they may encounter.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme focuses on “choosing to challenge” and striking this year’s pose, “a raised hand” could encourage everyone to commit to help forge an inclusive world.

Through skill and sheer determination, many women have earned themselves senior positions in a wide range of sectors including the defence and security sector. The FSE Group has supported many female founders to help them scale-up their businesses and reach the next level. We are proud of our success in supporting female led SMEs and across our funds, 24% of our portfolio companies have at least one female director.

Julie Silvester, Head of Commercial at The FSE Group comments: “Defence and Security is a key sector within the UK economy. We consider it highly important in terms of investment and many of our existing portfolio companies work within this sector. So, we are thrilled that more and more women are taking up high level positions within the field. We have a rich history in not only supporting female led SMEs but also having great representation of female leaders in senior positions within our company. Last year we were delighted to sign the Investing in Women Code, a commitment by financial services firms to improve female entrepreneurs’ access to tools, resources and finance. We appreciate that there is more work to be done and strive to build on our successes over the coming years.”

Ann-Marie Warner-Read, Defence Advisor at TriCIS Secure Integrated Solutions added: “As of March 2019, four of the five largest defence Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in the US are being led by women. By nature, women tend to be problem solvers. It’s a trait that is important in whatever role a woman plays but can work to our detriment at times as it takes longer to reach the top. Often, I am the only woman in the room and I’m absolutely fine with that. Working in defence should be about bringing authenticity to the table and building credibility. If there are errors or problems, it’s best to acknowledge them and move on. My gender doesn’t matter, what matters is what I do with the opportunities given to me.”

Ren Kapur MBE, Founder & CEO at X-Forces Enterprise and Board Member SME Lead at Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, said:“It is absolutely brilliant to see the phenomenal presence International Women’s Day now has around the world and is testament to all the incredible work local communities are contributing to the greater worldwide platform of #IWD. Wearing both my X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) and Enterprise M3 LEP (EM3) hats, I am thrilled that within our own business communities, we are continuing to champion women empowerment and women in enterprise. I am proud to say that through XFE we have one of the largest cohorts of female entrepreneurs in the armed forces network, with 30% of our start-up businesses being female led. Also, one of my non-exec board role positions at EM3 makes up a rich diversity of representation, including women. There is still much to do as a society, but we are making such great strides and I strongly believe the future is bright for all when diversity is embraced.” 

Find out more about the above companies here:

The FSE Group:


X-Forces Enterprise:

Enterprise M3 LEP:

International Women’s Day:

Spotlight on Spinouts and the Importance of Seed Funding

About The FSE Group

At The FSE Group (FSE), we have a 20 year history of supporting high growth UK SMEs, especially in underrepresented areas of the UK. In that time, we have been proud to back multiple university spinouts from across the country.

Emerging trends in investment into spinouts

A recent Beauhurst report found that even though investment into spinouts increased in 2020, it was to a smaller number of spinout companies (269 in 2020 compared to 360 in 2019) implying an increase in the average investment size and suggesting that investment efforts were focussed on existing portfolio businesses rather than new deals.

However, the amount of capital invested in university spinouts in 2020 is still lower than the record number in 2018 (£1.11 billion compared to £1.3 billion). What are the reasons for this? A paper by Research England found that compared to conventional startups, university spinouts tend to have a longer time horizon to exit, which increases the variability of returns and requires several rounds of funding, some of which can be explained by the inherent DeepTech focus of university spinouts. This latter point is further corroborated by Beauhurst’s finding that the biggest sectors for university spinouts are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Health, both of which are research and capital-intensive.

Spinouts clearly need long-term patient capital to fully grow and realise their potential, and this is reflected in the fact that spinouts tend to exit more than non-spinouts (10% compared to 7% in the wider SME population). However, investment into spinouts is heavily focussed on the Golden Triangle (Oxford, Cambridge and London), with over a third of investments made there, driven by funds local to each region, which has helped build a local ecosystem. To grow more spinouts from universities outside this area, they need investment from funds local to them, who have networks within their region to help create value for an SME.

In recent years, many universities have built vibrant ecosystems boosted by programmes to support graduate enterprise and science parks geared towards SMEs, which encourage collaboration with the university.  Research intensive universities tend to have their own linked funds, but this leaves a large number of other institutions without easy access to funding for their SME community.  In 2019, the government announced the launch of 20 University Enterprise Zones (UEZs) in universities across England, to provide support and funding to university connected startups.

Our experience with spinouts

FSE’s first fund, the South East Seed Fund, was developed in conjunction with 11 universities across the South East with public and corporate funding. Since the launch of that fund the FSE Group has continued to invest in university linked businesses with its other regional SME funds and through its angel network. 

On average, 20% of spinouts have at least one female founder, and only 6% of spinouts have an all-female founding team. FSE is proud of its success in supporting female led SMEs, and across our funds, 24% of our portfolio companies have at least one female director.

Some examples of FSE’s investments in university spinouts are:

UltraSoC – FSE first began funding support to this project in 2004 when the concept behind UltraSoC Technologies was initially conceived at the University of Kent. At that time, FSE provided funding from the South East Proof of Concept Fund for research into an optoelectronic debug support interface for embedded System-on-Chip’s (SoC’s). The South East Proof of Concept Fund (SEPoC) was managed by FSE on behalf of six South East based universities and was financed by the Higher Education Innovation Fund to increase the levels of commercial innovation within the academic knowledge base.

During the SEPoC grant, the University of Kent spun out the ‘project’ into a company that became known as UltraSoC Technologies Ltd. FSE continued to advise on business planning and funding strategy development. In 2006, FSE provided UltraSoC with a PoCKeT loan, which was designed to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from universities into industry, Funds were used to develop a prototype software tool for the electronics industry in collaboration with the University of Essex as well as market research and maintenance of the IP portfolio. UltraSoc subsequently took its first institutional equity investment from FSE managed South East Seed Fund alongside a specialist fund connected with the University of Essex in 2008.  From there followed further IP development, a leading customer base and international private equity investment.

UltraSoc was acquired by Siemans in 2020 to provide a comprehensive solution for their semiconductor industry customers including manufacturing defects, device failure, functional safety, and malicious attacks. 

Codices Interactive Limited (Codices)  – was founded in 2018 by Tim Edwards and Fern Pombeiro at the Falmouth Launchpad Entrepreneurship programme. Through the FSE managed Cornwall and Isle of Scilly Investment Fund (CIOSIF) the company secured equity investment in 2020.

Codices works with brands and influencers to create live interactive shows on Twitch, a video live streaming service which is a subsidiary of Amazon. By using Codices’ tools, broadcasters can build, engage and monetise their audiences through player-driven entertainment. The Twitch platform has proved a great success with over 3 million unique active streamers and over 15 million daily active users.

The business continues to go from strength to strength, most recently having won awards and connected people across the UK during these difficult circumstances with the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Glas Data – Rob Sanders and Colin Phillipson, founders of Glas Data, recognised that data fragmentation issues within the agricultural sector existed and saw how it restricted farmers, processors and retailers.

Referred from Falmouth University’s Launchpad (with MA Entrepreneurship) course, they approached FSE who were delighted to be able to invest in the agri-tech company as part of a larger funding round.

Their technology is developing rapidly, allowing farmers to collect real time data on everything from weather and animal health to load cells and a vast array of sensor devices. With so much data & technology now available, the challenge is how to make it accessible and easy to understand. The clear visualisation of data analysis makes real-time decision making easy from any device. Glas Data now employs seven people, with more recruitment to follow.

In Summary

Some university spinouts in the UK have been successful and raised considerable sums of capital, when compared to international counterparts. Between 2013-17, spinouts from Cambridge raised over $2.2 billion, compared to $1.84 billion for spinouts from Stanford, or $906m for spinouts from MIT. However, there is still a long way to go, and UK spinouts that can compete on a global scale are few and far between. As a comparison, MIT has supported 26,000 businesses who generate a turnover of $2 trillion, far beyond UK universities.

FSE believes there is a funding gap to provide investment for developing commercial scale across a wider number of Universities. This requires specialist fund management skills to understand the particularities of spin outs, how to make the best use of the innovation available, the funding landscape and the objectives of the universities themselves. We believe that more UK universities should come together to share expertise and build a sustainable funding model to support spinouts across the country.

We are committed to supporting eligible, ambitious, innovative, high growth and scalable SMEs to help fuel their growth ambitions, as an essential part of helping the UK’s economic bounce back.

For more information on FSE’s funds under management visit:

Words by Julie Silvester, Head of Commercial at The FSE Group.

Leicestershire Gin Distiller Secures £250,000 MEIF Funding to Boost Growth

A Leicestershire gin distiller business has secured a £250,000 investment to scale-up its operations and create new jobs.

Burleighs Gin secured the finance from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), provided by The FSE Group and backed by the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

The funding package will enable Burleighs Gin, based at Bawden Lodge Farm, Loughborough, to expand its operations. Five full-time jobs within its sales and operational functions will be created as the brand focuses on developing its premium brand gin range with two new products in the pipeline.

The funding will also allow the company to further establish its export sales – expanding its presence in Europe and the Far East, with further plans to expand into the United States.

Sam Watson, Commercial Director of Burleighs Gin, commented, “These are exciting times for Burleighs Gin as we have a clear vision as to where we wish to take our business. We are aiming to expand the brand overseas and continue to grow in the UK. We are due to launch two new marketing campaigns to support the forthcoming product launches and would like to extend our thanks to Chirag, at The FSE Group, for helping us to source the funding which will enable the business to pursue its growth ambitions and keep the day-to-day sales, distribution and operations fluid whilst we look to the future.”

Chirag Mistry, Fund Manager, at The FSE Group, which manages the MEIF Debt Finance Fund adds:We are proud to have supported Burleighs Gin with its expansion plans. The job creation will have a positive impact on the local economy and further strengthen the future of the business. Through the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, The FSE Group is committed to providing finance for innovative Midlands’ businesses with the potential to grow.”

Lewis Stringer, Senior Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “The MEIF Early Assessment Report, published last year, evidenced the Fund’s role in driving forward exports, growth and job creation in the region’s businesses. We’d encourage other businesses in the Midlands looking for finance for growth to consider the options available through the MEIF.”

Kevin Harris, Chair of the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Limited (LLEP), said:  “It is great to see a growing Leicestershire business receive this type of funding through MEIF. The £250,000 investment will help Burleighs Gin to expand and reach its full potential, which is exactly what the fund was set up to achieve. Burleighs Gin is proof that despite the current economic climate, those businesses that can see a global future for their products have many opportunities to thrive, and I wish them every success with establishing its brand in these new markets.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS). Deadline for CBILS applications has been extended to 31st March for UK businesses.

Greater London Investment Fund (GLIF) Supports Technology Brand Kokoon, Helping People Unwind, Sleep Better and Aid Their Wellbeing

London based Kokoon, a leading digital health technology business specialising in personalised audio coaching proven to promote better sleep, has secured a £430,000 loan from The Greater London Investment Fund (GLIF) which includes £250,000 in conjunction with the government backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Many environmental factors can contribute to restless nights, varying from reduced sleep patterns to full on insomnia, anything can trigger it: noisy neighbours, family worries or financial concerns. Currently, more than half the population have experienced more anxiety, isolation and screen time during the pandemic, having an increased effect on sleeping patterns.

Tim Antos, Kokoon’s CEO and Co-Founder was no stranger to a poor night’s sleep. Struggling with insomnia for many years he attended sleep clinics in a bid to find better sleep. Tim realised that sleep clinics provided fantastic support but tended to be inaccessible and inconvenient for most, so he set out to make the knowledge and insights he had gained at these clinics, available to the public and he decided the best way to do this would be via a consumer-friendly product which uses audio to slow a busy mind. He got in touch with Richard, a highly skilled Electronic Engineer and together they set about designing and producing a non-pharmaceutical, digital “go to” product which would enable people to get a better night’s sleep.

Founded in 2013, they launched Kokoon; intelligent, interactive headphones which use audio, proven to be effective in clinical trials to help improve and encourage sleep. Audio from their app ranges from personalised CBT coaching tailored and based on an individual’s sensor data through to soundscapes, relaxing music or audio books.

Working with and drawing on expert advice from sleep scientists, these comfortable easy to wear headphones lull the wearer to sleep at night with their favourite audio. Being linked to a smartphone app, it will also monitor and record important sleep data patterns. The intelligent software lowers the sound once asleep to avoid disturbance. Should the wearer awaken during the night, the audio then recommences to encourage sleep. Upon waking refreshed, the app will provide insights and coaching specific to the individual, helping them to understand their sleep pattern enabling them to make necessary adjustments to further improve their sleep.

Tim Antos, Co-Founder and CEO of Kokoon commented: “Richard and I wanted to create a product which would help democratise sleep science. Nearly 2/3 of the population are reporting poor sleep and it’s become an issue for nearly 1/3 of the population yet very few of us can justify a visit to the sleep clinic. We wanted to make the established science and techniques of the sleep clinic more accessible and convenient to all.  This growth loan will allow us to recruit 5 new employees in the early part of 2021 whilst the CBILS element allows us to retain existing staff to continue working from home fulfilling current sales orders. There will also be a strong focus on new product development. As well as the widely available original Kokoon over ear headphones, our in-ear bud product is on pre-order and we wish to further promote this whilst continuing to develop our product offering.”

Paul Shadbolt, Senior Fund Manager for The FSE Group, who manages the £55 million GLIF debt fund on behalf of Funding London, commented: “GLIF supports innovative high growth businesses in Greater London. We were impressed by Kokoon’s products which have demonstrated commercial traction which are key attributes for commercial success. We are pleased to be supporting them through the opportunities and challenges of the pandemic and into their next phase of growth.”

Maggie Rodriguez-Piza, CEO at Funding London, adds: “Kokoon has developed an innovative and affordable solution to a problem which seriously affects one third of the population. We are delighted to help Tim and Richard and support the excellent operation they have built, to fulfil current demand and to underpin future growth.”

GLIF is a £100m initiative to help address the SME finance gap in Greater London, promoting economic growth through enterprise and an inclusive and sustainable economy. £55m of debt funding is available, via loans between £100,000 and £1m, to early-stage and established SMEs looking to scale-up and realise their growth ambitions. GLIF is financed through the European Investment Bank (EIB), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), London Waste & recycling Board (LWARB) and Funding London’s Legacies.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS). Deadline for CBILS applications has been extended to 31 March for UK businesses.