L-R: Robert Evans, Professor Leon Terry, Dr Stephanie Hussels, Stephen Quick and Dr Edgar Lopez-Rojas

Cranfield University has launched a new Seed Fund, using philanthropic gifts from alumni donors to provide early investment for promising business owners who have a link to the university.

Launched by the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship at the School of Management, Cranfield University Seed Fund gives entrepreneurs and start-ups access to capital from a diverse pool of supporters, alongside advice and education to help scale their businesses.

Martin Rigby, Managing Director of ET Capital Ltd, who has been involved in founding the fund, and supported it financially as an MBA alumnus, said: “I'm delighted that the Seed Fund has been launched.  It will not only provide much needed growth capital for promising young businesses but give their founders the benefit of insight and wisdom from the Bettany Centre and Cranfield's vibrant and diverse entrepreneurship community. 

“It's a privilege to be involved in this initiative which, judging from the early deal flow including the first investment in FinCrime Dynamics, will back some outstanding young businesses."

Virtuous circle of giving

The fund will invest in businesses at two stages of growth:

  • Ideas stage – for business ideas that need a small injection of capital to enable market research or work on a prototype, the fund will grant up to £5,000.
  • Start-up / Seed stage – for businesses that have started or are starting, the fund will invest up to £25,000 operating on a commercial basis, by providing convertible loans.

The convertible loans model of investment will help ensure the longevity of the Seed Fund. Alongside continued gifts from alumni, the capital returns will mean that it becomes self-supporting and creates a virtuous circle of giving, from one generation of alumni and investors to the next.

Students from Cranfield will also benefit from hands-on involvement in the fund. They will support due diligence and commercial evaluations of the businesses applying for funding, helping to enhance their business experience whilst studying.

First investment announced

The first investment from the Seed Fund has been awarded to FinCrime Dynamics, a fintech company that helps financial institutions test and improve crime controls.

CTO and founder of the company, Dr Edgar Lopez-Rojas, is currently studying for an Executive MBA with Cranfield’s School of Management. He said: "FinCrime Dynamics is thrilled to be awarded the very first investment from the Cranfield Seed Fund. It is an honour that an institution so strongly associated with innovation and entrepreneurship has selected our company as its very first investment.  

“The funding and wider support that we have received from the Cranfield community has already had a huge impact on our company. Cranfield University is now very much a crucial part of our company’s journey. We look forward to Cranfield being part of our future success and the success of many other startups to follow."

Milestone adds to advice and training

Director of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship, Dr Stephanie Hussels, said: “Thanks to the generosity of our alumni community, I’m delighted that we can put both funding and support in place for entrepreneurs of the future. This is a superb addition to the advice, education and support which we already provide to start-ups and early-stage businesses and is a real milestone for Cranfield.”

The new fund builds on a small successful pilot set up in 2016, which gave grants to very early-stage businesses started within the University or by alumni. This has accelerated the growth of several businesses to date, including CorrosionRadar, Herotech8, and Citispotter. Several of the original seed fund recipients have won numerous industry awards and have raised further funding subsequently.

To find out more about the Cranfield University Seed Fund or to donate, please contact: bettanycentre@cranfield.ac.uk.