Pioneer Group and Innovate UK join forces on programme aiming to accelerate the development of life sciences companies

Pioneer Group, a company combining laboratory development and operation with venture building, is continuing its collaboration with Innovate UK by bringing its venture development ‘Launch Programme’ to the Exploit stage of Innovate UK’s ICURe programme.

The Launch Programme welcomes invited life science founders from the ICURe Programme, as well as the Pioneer Group ecosystem, to provide support in accelerating their development from lab to market adoption.

The ICURe programme is designed to help researchers explore the commercial application and potential of UK research. Building confidence and commercial traction throughout several different stages, the life science teams that successfully progress to the ICURe ‘Spin Out’ route have the opportunity to continue their commercial learning journey within the ICURe Exploit Launch Programme.

The Launch Programme provides new entrepreneurs and spin outs with access to tailored support and workshops to help de-risk the commercial and technical viability of their technologies and facilitate seed and series A investment.

Pioneer Group was confirmed as a delivery partner for the Launch programme with Innovate UK in March 2023.

Led by Pioneer Group’s Director and Venture Development Partner, Lisa Thomas, the Launch Programme’s participants will work to refine their business model and transition into a fully-fledged commercial venture. Pioneer’s highly specialised life sciences team will provide 1:1 support to selected ICURe companies across the UK for a period of 12 months. This includes regular sessions with a dedicated expert coach to strengthen business plans, pitching skills, as well as learning about the practicalities of building a business and raising investment.

Participants are also introduced to esteemed figures from the life sciences industry, who can provide sound advice and guidance on investment, market adoption and scale-up as part of Pioneer Group’s Expert Network.

Of the programme, Lisa Thomas says: “Pioneer Group has supported hundreds of entrepreneurs and helped create more than 100 life sciences companies that have raised over £300 million in total investment, 35% of which have been founded by at least one female entrepreneur. Indeed, over half of the companies taking part in our current Launch programme have female-led teams, something we are particularly proud of given the historical lack of female representation in the highest offices of the life sciences sector.

“In September 2023, the selected cohort gathered for the first of a number of in-person training sessions at Victoria House in London, which is one of two new Pioneer Group life sciences campuses in the city. The in-person training sessions cover many aspects of day-to-day business operations and commercial management, complementary to other Exploit training sessions and with a focused life science perspective.”

Rayner Lim, Commercialisation Programmes Support Manager (Interim Lead- ICURe), comments: “With the recent release of the spin-out review, providing support for spin-out founders in business-building activities and further assistance in commercialisation through industry collaborations has never been more crucial to improve the creation and growth of university spin-out companies. As part of offering post-support for life science ventures emerging from the ICURe programme, ICURe collaborated with Pioneer Group to accelerate life science ventures with the greatest potential. I am pleased to see the various successes these companies have achieved over the past year as they continue to deliver societal impact from UK research."

The programme’s latest cohort includes entrepreneurs from a range of life sciences businesses including SHARP Genomics, NunaBio, OncoAssign, TrueView, Klas Therapeutics, and VITA.

Speaking about the value of the programme, Wenbin Guo, Co-Founder of SHARP Genomics, says: “As a research scientist, the Launch Programme has been a transformative experience in my journey to transition our academic software into a thriving spin-out company. For instance, the 'Raising Finance' module has provided me with a deep understanding of how and when to secure vital funding, a pivotal step in launching our venture as we move from academia to the business world. The one-on-one coaching sessions have been exceptionally valuable, offering detailed guidance on topics like equity distribution and negotiation strategies. This programme has truly been a game-changer in equipping us with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in this transition.”

Joe Hedley, Co-Founder & CEO of NunaBio says: “The Pioneer Launch Programme is staffed by experienced industry professionals who provide invaluable practical wisdom alongside an extensive network of discipline specific experts. This provides a really impactful combination of well-structured support and highly relevant content to literally 'launch' your business to the next level.”

Ashwin Nadakumar, Co-Founder & COO of OncoAssign comments: “The Launch Programme has helped me better understand and navigate the commercial side of my venture. There have been excellent sessions throughout the programme, from financial planning, and leadership skills to creating a great working culture. Sessions from successful founders have also been a highlight - where we can better understand a start-up's day-to-day workings. The 1-2-1 mentorship sessions are a great bonus and I have benefitted from discussing our venture's progress and concerns in detail. It is also a fantastic opportunity to perfect your storytelling side of the pitch - especially as we begin our fundraising journey.”

Chris Icely, Co-Founder of TrueView adds: "Pioneer Group's Accelerator and Launch Programmes will challenge every assumption and conclusion you hold dear about your business. At times, it will be uncomfortable and feel hopeless. The programme, however, will build you up, hone your entrepreneurial instincts and prepare your business to solve an actual customer's actual problem. Pioneer Group both understand and empathise with the struggles of first-time entrepreneurs and really do want to help you (a rare trait in the VC landscape). They've certainly changed the trajectory of my life and I am very grateful for the chances (plural!) that they've taken for me."

To learn more about the Launch Programme and how to get involved, visit:

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