iiCON hosts pitching event for US investors & innovative UK start-ups

Global investment firm SOSV visited Liverpool City Region to discover the companies developing tomorrow's health innovations.

Companies with next-generation solutions to global health challenges had the chance to pitch to investors from the global venture capitalist firm, SOSV, during a special ‘Dragon’s Den’ style event, aimed at very early-stage investment, held in Liverpool.

The two-day event, which attracted applications from over 20 companies, was organised by members of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Innovation Board and hosted by the Infection Innovation Consortium: iiCON.

The competitive process saw 17 companies looking for investment selected to pitch. The companies, many of which were early-stage start-ups or university spinouts developing highly-innovative technology, pitched their ideas to SOSV investors alongside an expert panel including: Professor Janet Hemingway, director of iiCON; Lorna Green CEO of Lyva Labs; Dr Jonathan Hague chair of the LCR Innovation Board; and Dr Damian Kelly, VP of Innovation & Technology Development at Croda.

Following the event, five companies were chosen to go through to the next stage of the assessment, with investment decisions due in 2024.

SOSV is one of the most active venture investors in the world and makes nearly 300 investments per year, including 100+ pre-seed rounds in new startups. The firm offers multi-stage investment, starting with pre-seed startup development programs designed for founders with breakthrough technologies. Companies receive an investment package of between $250,000 – $500,000. Some 215 companies have graduated from SOSV since 2014, and they have gone on to raise $2.6 billion, including $163 million from SOSV, and in aggregate a valuation of $7.7 billion.

SOSV is looking to invest in deep tech companies aimed at solving intractable or difficult problems connected to Human and Planetary Health that will impact over 1 billion people.  The company invests in a broad range of areas, including therapeutics, the future of food, biomaterials, biological tools, diagnostics, synthetic biology, genomics, and data analysis.

Professor Janet Hemingway, iiCON founding director, “Start-ups and SMEs, particularly within the health and life sciences sector, have a huge role to play in driving forward innovation and helping the global community take a collective step forward when it comes to tackling some of the world’s most critical large-scale health issues.

“Unfortunately, it’s an incredibly challenging funding landscape for companies seeking investment at the moment. So, to have attracted the interest of such a significant investment firm is testament to the strength of the pioneering research and innovation activity coming through our health and life science sector.

“The quality and range of the pitches during the event was outstanding. It’s very encouraging to see the innovation engine within the city region at work – accelerating and supporting such compelling activity. We hope to see at least one company go forward to securing investment with SOSV through this unique opportunity.

“We are also looking forward to welcoming SOSV back to the city region next year when they will be taking part in the City Region’s 3rd Innovation Investment Summit, being organised in May.”

John Whaling, Lead Officer for Innovation & Commercialisation at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, said: “Supporting start-ups and companies at the very early stage of their journey is critical to both nurturing the next generation of potentially world-changing innovations and ultimately realising our ambition to invest 5% of GVA in R&D, so we were delighted to welcome SOSV to the Liverpool City Region, attracted by the demonstrable internationally significant potential across our health and life sciences sector.

“The calibre of propositions was excellent and augurs well in terms of doing more, bigger and better next year. Brilliant also to see the seamless collaboration across leading industry, academic and public partners in action to bring this major new opportunity to life, as that is what characterises our place-based innovation approach.”