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Ex-Tech Nation CEO to lead University of Cambridge founder scheme

UK tech 2032 Image credit: Tech Nation

The University of Cambridge has appointed the former CEO of Tech Nation to lead a new programme supporting tech founders hailing from the university.

Gerard Grech will head up the initiative, called Founders at The University of Cambridge, which will connect academics, entrepreneurs, alumni and peer role models.

It will have a focus on deep tech and aim to “make a measurable economic impact for the whole UK”.

The University of Cambridge and its commercialisation arm, Cambridge Enterprise, are financially backing the founder initiative in a bid to become the main startup rival to US universities MIT and Stanford.

Cambridge already has a strong record for cultivating leading tech companies. It has proved rich ground for unicorns, creating 23 private tech companies with a value of at least $1bn.

“I firmly believe significant technological innovation will emerge from the University of Cambridge and its surrounding ecosystem over the coming years,” said Grech.

He added: Creating fertile pathways for our top innovators to bring their game-changing solutions to market is vital and I couldn’t be more excited to be leading Founders at the University of Cambridge at this pivotal moment.”

The University of Cambridge created 54 spinouts between 2012 and 2022, according to data from Beauhurst. This is the second highest behind the University of Oxford, but Cambridge spinouts were 2.5 times less likely to go bust than at its rival institution.

Recent spinouts include quantum computing business Riverlane and battery charging firm Nyobolt. The East of England city is also home to notable tech companies Arm, Darktrace and Raspberry Pi.

Data from Dealroom shows that Cambridge produces more founders than any other university city in the world.

“Cambridge is a fantastic place not just to start, but also to scale a technology business,” said Poppy Gustafsson, CEO of Darktrace. “We have benefitted greatly from being so close to the technology innovators of the future and being able to bring them into our business.

“I welcome Gerard’s appointment into this new role which underscores the University’s commitment to supporting the future Darktraces out there.”

New chapter for former Tech Nation boss

Grech was the founding CEO of Tech Nation, which first launched in 2011 and supported more than 1,300 companies – including Darktrace, Revolut and Deliveroo – as they scaled.

Tech Nation closed operations in March after losing a bid for a £12m government grant, its primary source of income, to Barclays Eagle Labs.

Founders Forum Group, the entrepreneur community set up by Brent Hoberman, acquired the Tech Nation brand in April.

Grech holds an advisory board role at the new Tech Nation, which will officially relaunch on 16 October.

Grech is also a governing board member of Innovate UK, the country’s innovation agency that provides funding to companies developing new products and services.

Professor Debbie Prentice, vice chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said: “The launch of Founders at the University of Cambridge demonstrates the university’s commitment to societal impact through entrepreneurship.

“Gerard Grech’s appointment will offer us the right mix of leadership and experience in the field of technological innovation.”