All eyes on Glasgow
The recent COP26 negotiations helped throw the spotlight on a vibrant city that has a lot to offer investors, from net zero manufacturing to space tech, writes journalist Tim Turner.
While it may be a coincidence, it is apt that the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) took place in a city whose name is made up of Celtic words that mean the ‘dear green place’. Glasgow, once known as ‘the Second City of the British Empire’, is today racking up firsts when it comes to sustainability.
It was the first city outside London to implement a low-emission zone and the first to introduce electric buses (in its airport car parks). Glasgow’s convention bureau was the first in Europe to win a Green Tourism award, and the city ranked third in BNP Paribas Real Estate’s list of green places to live and work outside of London.
With huge planned investment in the region’s Green Network, which includes cycle paths and wildlife habitats, Glasgow’s sustainability credentials are set to grow further over the coming years following the recent launch of its portfolio of climate investment projects.
Focus on innovation
The city is a long way from its less green 19th-century industrial heritage, when it was a leader in shipbuilding, engineering and other heavy industries. “Glasgow has continually regenerated itself over many years,” says Alisdair Gunn, Head of Business for the Glasgow City Innovation District (GCID), one of three such districts in the city.
As well as the GCID in the city centre there is the Glasgow Riverside Innovation District, and towards Glasgow Airport, the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland (AMIDS). Home to the new National Manufacturing Institute Scotland and the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre, AMIDS is an exemplar of decarbonisation, being designed as net zero from the ground up.
These innovation districts are fuelled by the city’s three universities as well as Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, with Strathclyde leading the way.
“It has a strong pipeline of start-ups and spinouts,” says Gunn, who points to the success of Strathclyde Inspire, a university-wide strategy encouraging entrepreneurship for all. “All staff and students have access to entrepreneurial support and learning,” he explains.
The city attracted £43 million in venture capital investment in 2020, up 156% on the previous year, according to Tech Nation.
From ships to satellites
Research by the Centre for Cities found that 46% of students in Glasgow choose to stay on after graduation, creating a strong talent pipeline. Glasgow has focused on diversification in recent decades and developed strengths in a number of sectors, including financial services, the creative industries, nanotechnology, life sciences, energy and advanced manufacturing. And, where once it was famous for shipbuilding, Glasgow is now a global leader in the space and satellite industry, building more satellites each year than any city outside the US.
Underpinning all these specialisms is an impressive depth of digital technology expertise, and access to tech talent and skills is a key attraction for investors. So it is not surprising that the city attracted £43 million in venture capital investment in 2020, up 156% on the previous year, according to Tech Nation.
Glasgow’s tech expertise is reflected in BVCA members’ investments in the city. To name just a few, Mercia Asset Management invested in Allegrow, which offers sales automation products. NorthEdge put money behind Altia-ABM, a specialist investigation and covert operation software business. Livingbridge has backed end-to-end networking and IoT application specialist North. YFM Equity Partners has invested in TravelTek, which provides booking technology to the travel sector. And Maven Capital Partners has backed Adimo, which helps FMCG companies to improve conversions by embedding commerce into digital media and content.
Glasgow’s dynamic start-up sector is underpinned by an entrepreneurial mindset and independence of spirit and, as Gunn says, “Having creative expertise connected with innovation and technology is a great mixture.”
Working with Glasgow, Caledonian and Strathclyde Universities, engineer Karthik Velayutham founded Katrick in 2016 to commercialise research into wave and vibration energy. The company has patented technologies to capture, converge and convert energy from waste heat, wind and waves into mechanical vibration and use it to produce electricity. It has already been supported by the Energy Technology Partnership and it is currently looking for further funding.
Launched in Glasgow in 2015 as 3FBIO, Enough is a sustainable food producer. It grows Abunda mycoprotein, a fermented food ingredient that is rich in protein and fibre and can be used as an alternative to meat; its processes are more resource efficient than both plant and animal farming. Enough has proved attractive to investors; in June it received €42 million in Series B funding.
This Glasgow-based tech start-up wirelessly connects smart devices such as sensors, automatically transmitting data via the cloud to an insights platform. Its focus is on the 90% of the planet that lacks traditional communications infrastructure, and it creates solutions for sectors such as aquaculture, renewable energy and rural health. In July it closed a £3.1 million seed investment round, which will enable it to expand to North America.
This article is from the BVCA Journal Autumn edition, published October 2021. BVCA members can access the full publication here.
In this autumn edition, we explore the role of PE in achieving net zero; the current momentum behind ESG initiatives across the VC space; the factors driving an ever-increasing number of firms to certify as B Corps; showcase a selection of BVCA members working on the most viable solutions to the many problems presented by climate change, and much more.