University of Melbourne unveils two investment funds worth $115m

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The University of Melbourne will partner with the Victorian government to launch a $15 million fund targeting pre-seed startups, and has also announced a $100 million fund for later stage tech firms.

Breakthrough Victoria, an independent company founded by the Victorian government to provide grants, repayable loans, equity and joint ventures to local companies focusing on commercialisation, will stump at $7.5 million for the Genesis Fund, which will be matched by the university.

The other fund will see the University of Melbourne partner with private funds manager Tanarra Capital to invest in university-affiliated companies from the seed stage to pre-IPO.

Melbourne University

The Genesis Fund will be for very early stage startups or researchers looking to turn university IP into a company, with funding to go towards strategic hiring, market research, developing MVPs, securing IP and ironing out a business model.

Startups will be able to apply for up to $500,000 from the fund, with expressions of interest now open.

“Victorian researchers and innovators lead the world in so many areas, and we’re making sure they have the best chance to turn great ideas into great businesses,” Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said.

“Breakthrough Victoria is matching brilliance and inspiration with commercial support and investment in sectors ranging from health to advanced manufacturing – growing jobs and building the economy.”

The fund will aim to address Australia’s long-running disparity between its research and commercialisation performance.

The $2 billion Breakthrough Victoria was established as an independent company last year, led by Grant Dooley and chaired by former Premier John Brumby.

The University of Melbourne has also announced the $100 million Tin Alley Ventures Fund, which will target companies from seed stage to pre-IPO. The university will be contributing $25 million to the fund, with a further $25 million already committed. It will soon open to private investors to reach the final $100 million amount.

University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell said this is the first time an Australian university has introduced such a funding platform covering the pre-seed to pre-IPO stages of a company’s lifecycle.

“Our two new funds will play a critical role in supporting researchers to take more risks, to be reactive in their thinking and accelerate the possibilities to take research discoveries from an idea to market,” Mr Maskell said.

“Together with our partners, we are investing in these funds to give full support to our academics to translate their research into commercial outcomes which will create jobs and contribute to the economy while actively improving people’s lives.”

The funds will be open to University of Melbourne students, affiliated organisations and alumni.

The new funds come after the University of Melbourne was unsuccessful in applying for the federal government’s Trailblazer research commercialisation scheme. The university’s medical products proposal had been shortlisted by the former Coalition government, but ultimately did not receive funding under the scheme.

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