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Two new directors at Forward Ventures

The appointees will look to commercialise intellectual property coming out of the Universities of Leeds and Heriot-Watt.

Forward Ventures, a VC that focuses on universities looking to commercialise their technology research, has appointed Richard Exley and Heleen Kist-Nairn as directors, according to the Financial Times.

Exley was previously head of intellectual property and technology transfer at the University of Sheffield, where he organised funding for start-up ventures operating in a number of sectors including cell therapy, biotechnology and antennae in mobile telecoms.

Prior to this, he was at Fisons, where he managed collaborations with universities both in the UK and overseas. His role at Forward Ventures is to develop business partnerships at Leeds University.

Kist-Nairn co-founded the Stanford Technology Ventures Programme at Stanford University and was chief executive of Iowatch, a European internet infrastructure software company. Her job is to develop business leads at Heriot-Watt University.

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.

Forward Ventures has signed a £10m deal with Heriot-Watt in a five-year agreement to provide commercial management for new ventures derived from the university's research. In return for its investment and business management, Forward is given access to new technologies.

The company was set up by Andrew Mitchell and Ray Chamberlain two years ago. Both men had built their own technology businesses, Mitchell's was a spin-out from Leeds University, and Chamberlain’s a printed circuit board company.

Forward Ventures typically injects around £2m to £3m, and supplies a management team. Examples include Symularity, a spin-off from the University of Leeds, developing web-based software solutions, and Science Warehouse, an online marketplace for the scientific laboratory community, also formed by researchers at the University of Leeds.