Swiss university spin-off secures funding

Index Ventures has injected an undisclosed amount of capital into BeamExpress, a spin-off from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

The start-up was founded by a team of scientists from the university, who led by Professor Eli Kapon, a Professor in EPFL’s Department of Physics, has for the last five to seven years been developing components used in optical networking technology.

Giuseppe Zocco, general partner of Index Ventures, said spin-offs from universities and research centres had become key targets in the firm’s investment strategy. This is rather unsurprising as over the last 10 years, universities have become much more like corporations, taking ownership of their intellectual property, and producing research with a commercial use. The BeamExpress funding is the latest in a long line of such deals.

In the UK, Beeson Gregory recently placed £4.5m worth of shares in its wholly owned subsidiary IP2IPO, the firm’s joint venture with Oxford University, taking its investment in the company to £20m. In terms lasting until November 2015, Beeson gets 50 per cent of the University’s equity in companies spun out of its Chemistry Department as well as 50 per cent of the University’s revenue arising from the licensing of the Chemistry Department’s intellectual property.

Venture capitalist <font color='Forward Ventures, is also focusing on universities looking to commercialise their technology research. It recently signed a £10m deal with Heriot-Watt University in a five-year agreement to provide commercial management for new ventures derived from the university's research.

Index Ventures began investing in 1992. Since then the group has committed more than $500m in a number of technology and biotechnology companies in Western Europe including UK company Virata, Numerical Technologies, and Digiquant. To date the company has invested in 34 companies, a third of which have already completed listings on the public markets or been acquired.

The company’s advisors include Mike Volpi, senior vice-president of the internet switching and services group at networking giant Cisco Systems>, Thomas Kurian, senior vice-president at Oracle, and Daniel Borel, chairman and founder of Logitech.