Bank of Ireland launches €26m Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment launches €26m Bank of Ireland Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund supported by Enterprise Ireland and the University of Limerick Foundation

8th Fund under Enterprise Ireland’s Seed and Venture Capital Scheme 2007-2012

Today (8 November 2009) the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan, T.D. launched the Bank of Ireland Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund. This €26m Fund will invest in start-up and early stage companies, with a focus on export orientated high potential start-up companies that operate in the technology (including green technology), food and financial services sectors, in addition to supporting patent and patent pending projects within Irish universities. It will be managed on behalf of Bank of Ireland and the other partners by Kernel Capital.

This new fund is the eighth new fund supported by Government through Enterprise Ireland’s Seed and Venture Capital Programme 2007-2012. It comprises an investment by Bank of Ireland of €17m, €8m from Enterprise Ireland, and €1m by University of Limerick Foundation (ULF). Today’s announcement will increase the funds under management by Kernel Capital and its Life Science associate firm Seroba Kernel to €190m.

Making the announcement the Tánaiste said: “I am delighted to announce the launch of this new fund by Bank of Ireland as part of the Government’s bank recapitalisation initiative, marking a significant increase in the supply of seed capital available for new Irish businesses and campus spin-out companies. A healthy seed and venture capital environment is absolutely essential for stimulating the growth of new and innovative businesses that have real potential to grow and expand into export markets. This fund underpins Enterprise Ireland’s strategy to stimulate entrepreneurship and increase the flow of new high potential start-ups which are the life blood of a thriving indigenous business sector. Funding is critical, and Enterprise Ireland is working closely with the banks, the venture capital sector and the European Investment Bank to secure finance for Irish businesses.”

Welcoming the Tánaiste’s announcement, Richie Boucher, Group Chief Executive, Bank of Ireland said: “In the current economic climate, supporting new high potential start-ups, university spin outs and more developed companies is central to Ireland’s economic recovery and growth. This Fund demonstrates our commitment and support to early stage companies with significant growth prospects.

“Equity finance is a key source of funding for companies at early and growth stages. This new fund will further strengthen our commitment to supporting indigenous Irish companies and adds to our extensive support of SMEs. The Fund will target investments in the range of €100,000 and €500,000. This investment reinforces the Bank’s position as one of Ireland’s leading providers of venture capital finance. Since 2000 Bank of Ireland has committed over €101m in venture capital to developing Irish companies.”

Niall Olden, Managing Partner Kernel Capital said: “This investment reinforces Bank of Ireland’s position as the largest investor in Enterprise Ireland’s Seed and Venture Capital Programme with its total commitment now in excess of €101m. The significance of this Fund is that it addresses a gap in the market for investments of €500,000 and below. The Fund will operate synergistically with our existing Bank of Ireland venture capital funds that currently target investments in the €500,000 to €5m range.”

Professor Don Barry, President, University of Limerick said: “Bank of Ireland’s collaboration with the University further enhances our strong links with industry and provides a catalyst for third and/or fourth level research to contribute to the future growth of Ireland’s smart economy.”

8 November 2009
For further information contact:

Anne Mathews
Media Relations Manager
Group Communications Bank of Ireland Tel: + 353 (0)1 604 3836 / 087 246 0358

Note to Editors
Enterprise Ireland’s Seed and Venture Capital Programme 2007-2012

Venture capital is an essential element of the eco-system for Irish indigenous industry, providing risk capital for companies that would have difficulty raising capital through traditional sources of finance. Under the 2007-2012 Seed and Venture Capital Programme, the Government through Enterprise Ireland is investing €175m, which will leverage an estimated investment of €1bn in start-up, early stage and development stage businesses. This scheme was announced in May 2006 and follows two previous similar programmes. Under the 1994-1999 Programme, Enterprise Ireland committed €43.9m, which leveraged a total €127m for investment. Under the 2000-2006 programme Enterprise Ireland committed €98m, which resulted in a total €408m for investment.

Enterprise Ireland
Enterprise Ireland is the government agency responsible for the development and promotion of the indigenous business sector. EI provides financial support to companies by way of direct investments in individual projects as well as indirect investments through participating in venture capital funds.

About Kernel Capital
Kernel Capital is one of Ireland’s largest and most active venture capital funds. Established in 2002, the firm has a portfolio of investee companies across technology, life science and general industry. Kernel has made 49 investments in ten companies predominantly pre-revenue start-ups to date. With total investment funds of €190m under management through Kernel Capital and its associate company, Seroba Kernel, to date the firm has targeted investment opportunities in the €100,000 to €5m range.

The Bank of Ireland funds have already invested in Irish technology companies that collectively have over 75 registered patents and employ almost 500 people. The partnership with University of Limerick Foundation is of major strategic significance for this new fund and it will play a significant role in the objective to accelerate the commercialisation of University generated research. A strong pipeline of opportunities already exist, a number of which may close shortly. The new fund is expected to be fully invested within three to four years.

University of Limerick Foundation
This fund has received investment from the University of Limerick Foundation and the University will provide a focus for the fund in the mid-west. In recognition of this support, under the Bank of Ireland University of Limerick Research Commercialisation initiative, the fund welcomes applications focused on the commercialisation of university-based research, including patented and patent-pending technologies generated at Irish universities.