Deep Tech Grant Organizations
For most deep tech startups, a common source of investment comes from venture capitalists (VC). Although the allure of money in the bank is intoxicating for many startup founders, it can also quite often dilute them to such extremes (especially as the rounds move into the Bs, Cs, Ds etc.) that in the end, they can end up with almost nothing for all their hard work and frustration.
One way to avoid this trap is for startups to apply for state-funded grants. In Europe, these are offered by grant bodies such as the European H2020 program, the Eurostars SME program, the European Innovation Council (EIC), the European Commission, and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF); while in the UK, Innovate UK and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) do much the same thing. These types of governing bodies offer another, often highly sort-after, option for financing to founders afraid of giving up equity.
One of the prerequisites of receiving any funding is that the startup/company has a great team, technology and market (or potential market) in place.
I have listed below four European deep tech companies that have done just that, with two in biotechnology and two in software/AI.
1. BioNTech (Grant: €375M)
Founded in Mainz, Germany in 2008 by Christoph Huber and Ugur Sahin, BioNTech is a biopharmaceutical company breaking new ground in the development of individualized therapies for cancer and other diseases.
With over $1.6 billion in funding raised over 8 rounds, BioNTech’s massive €375-million grant received in September 2020 from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) makes the others on the list small by comparison.
2. Onfido (Grant: £5M)
Onfido is an AI-based technology startup that assesses whether a user’s government-issued ID is genuine or fraudulent and then compares it against their facial biometrics.
Founded in London in 2012 by Eamon Jubbawy, Husayn Kassai and Ruhul Amin, Onfido has raised a total of $188.8 million in funding over 16 rounds. The £5-million grant the company obtained in August 2020 was from the Capability and Innovation Fund.
3. Exscientia (Grant: £1.5M)
Exscientia is a global pharma tech company using patient-first artificial intelligence (AI) to discover better drugs, faster. Based in Oxford, UK, it was founded in 2012 by Andrew Hopkins.
To date, Exscientia has raised a total of $374.4 million in funding over 9 rounds. In July of this year, it snagged a $1.5-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
4. Oxbotica (Grant: $8.6M)
Oxbotica is an autonomous driving software company founded in 2014 by Oxford professors Paul Newman and Ingmar Posner. The startup’s software has been designed for real-world application, drawing on principles of physics, robotics, maths, AI.
Oxbotica has raised a total of $89.5 million in funding over 6 rounds, part of that coming from a substantial £8.6-million grant from Innovate UK in April 2017.