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January 25, 2013 7:08 pm
The Welsh government has earmarked more than £50m to back a new investment fund designed to boost fledgling life science companies based in or willing to move into the country.
Sir Chris Evans, the colourful entrepreneur and investor who runs Excalibur Fund Managers, said he had won the tender to manage the fund, which is set to begin making its first investments in the coming weeks and is in talks with two English and one American company to become eligible by opening operations in Wales.
His new company, Arthurian Life Sciences, plans to inject capital of £1m-10m and exert management influence while holding equity over a period of 5-10 years before existing.
The launch comes after a new Edinburgh-based venture fund announced it had won backing from three Scottish universities and the Strathclyde pension fund.
Critics have in the past cautioned about the risks of government-backed venture funds, and the mix of politics involved supporting and attracting inward investment by companies.
Few Welsh biotech companies have grown into significant businesses and other life science funds such as Deepbridge or the UK government’s previous programme have struggled to find backers or suitable companies.
Sir Chris said: “This really is a new era. There has never been real money focused behind Welsh life sciences. There’s very good quality but not the critical mass. The talent is there. Wales has got to look after itself.”
He said he hoped the fund would expand to £200m in the coming years, and he was already in discussion with several foreign investors.
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