Uniseed was established in October 2000 as a $20 million joint venture between the University of Melbourne (UM) and the University of Queensland (UQ). This proof of concept fund (Fund-1) operated with significant input and support from the commercialization offices of the two universities (UniQuest and Melbourne Ventures Limited), with staff of these organizations making up the majority of the Investment Committee and leading due diligence and management of most investment opportunities. Over 20 investments, typically of $250,000 – $500,000 were made from this fund.
A new $40 million venture fund (Fund-2) ran from 2005-15, with the addition of a third leading university, the University of New South Wales, and a major private institutional investor, the Westscheme superannuation fund. The founding universities (UQ & UM) also committed further funds. Australian Super took over Westscheme’s essets and commitments in July 2011.
With the start of Fund-2, an independent management team was established, consisting of the CEO and three Investment Managers; one at each university catchment. The Investment Committee was restructured, with dedicated committees established for biotechnology or other technologies. The nominal investment limit was increased to $2.5 million to allow participation in follow-on funding rounds so as to preserve Uniseed’s equity position.
On 1 November 2015, Uniseed started its third and largest fund (Fund-3) with the addition of the University of Sydney and the CSIRO to the Universities of Queensland, Melbourne and NSW. This followed three high profile exits in the preceding 14 months (Fibrotech; Spinifex & Hatchtech). Each of the five partners committed $10 million over 10 years to the new fund (total fund $50 million).
Uniseed’s partner research organisations spent nearly $4 billion on research, making up over 40% of the total research spend at 67 research organisations in Australia. Together, these organisations accounted for nearly 500 invention disclosures (34% of total) and 500 new registered IP rights filed (45% of total) over the same period (2013 National Survey of Research Commercialisation).
On March 2017, Uniseed announced the commitment of a $20 million Follow-on fund supported by existing Research partners; Universities of Melbourne, New South Wales, Sydney and Queensland. The new fund will be focussed on lower risk, later stage investment rounds in Uniseed investee companies. The new funding will provide additional capital to supplement investment from Uniseed’s $50 million Commercialisation Fund (Fund-3); the potential for better returns through greater access to capital for investee companies; further strengthen Uniseed’s long term deal alignment; and improve the investment to fee ratio for its members.