OSI beams into First Light Fusion

Global University Venturing 20 November 2017 Author: Callum Cyrus, reporter

Oxford Sciences Innovation has taken Parkwalk Advisors’ stake in nuclear fusion spinout First Light Fusion.

Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), University of Oxford’s venture fund, bought a stake on Friday in First Light Fusion, a UK-based nuclear fusion research spinout from Oxford and University College London (UCL).

OSI acquired the stake in a secondary transaction from VC firm Parkwalk Advisors, a university-focused fund manager acquired by IP Group in December 2016.

First Light Fusion is exploring whether vast quantities of electricity could be produced by engineering nuclear fusion from certain chemical compounds with the heat from high-energy beams.

The business has so far conducted theoretical analysis and simulated calculations as well as validations of previous experiments. Success could offer society a dependable energy source that does not exploit coal or oil.

Yiannis Ventikos, head of the Mechanical Engineering Department of UCL, co-founded First Light Fusion in 2011 alongside Nicholas Hawker, a former engineering science lecturer at Oxford who acts as chief technology officer. The business was originally named Oxyntix.

First Light has now raised $38m across three rounds, according to deals database Pitchbook.

The spinout secured up to $35.4m in two tranches in 2015 from University of Oxford and commercialisation firm IP Group, as well as undisclosed investors linked to investment firm Invesco Asset Management and family-run office Sandaire. IP Group contributed $9m to the initial $22m tranche.

Pitchbook suggests First Light had previously obtained $1.6m from Parkwalk Advisors in October 2013, after a $1.6m seed round featuring IP Group, Parkwalk and an assortment of angel backers in 2011. IP Group’s maximum seed commitment amounted to $645,000.

Dave Norwood, chief executive of OSI, said: “Nick and his team have already achieved exceptional results. We are looking forward to the future of First Light Fusion – and to the impact of their technology.”

Nicholas Hawker added: “We are delighted to welcome OSI into our group of investors. We have made very strong technical progress during 2017, which makes us very excited about our future.”