Thoroughbred enterprises Cambridge University and Tattersalls helped push the December deals total past $1.12 billion and take the transaction haul in the Cambridge UK cluster past $87bn for the last 33 months.
A traditionally deflated December lowered the monthly average across the lifespan of Business Weekly’s Cambridge Deals Digest to $2.63bn from a pinnacle of $2.71bn.
The far from festive dealflow defied the usual science & technology dominated agenda as property deals piled up with the university the big spender. The December bloodstock auctions at Tattersalls in Newmarket also bolstered the total.
The spending power of the university was demonstrated across a range of significant projects. It awarded a $111 million contract to Wates Construction for buildings centrally located in the North West Cambridge Development.
The contract includes the construction of 264 apartments for university key workers and local shop units that have been designed by RIBA Stirling Prize winners, Stanton Williams Architects, located around a market square designed by landscape architects Townshends. The site stands in the middle of the future local centre and will be a meeting point for the surrounding community.
The university also match-funded a $222m bonanza for the Cavendish Laboratory – one of its most prolific science & technology hothouses. The Government announced a $111m investment in Cavendish and this has been matched by the university to transform the Cavendish and help maintain Britain’s position at the forefront of physical sciences research.
University vice-chancellor, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, said: “The Cavendish is and will serve as a national asset to the benefit of research both in Cambridge and across the UK. “The funding presents a major opportunity for us to create a world-leading facility in the heart of the greater Cambridge hi-tech cluster and deliver a step-change in physical science research capability in the UK.”
The Cavendish has an extraordinary history of discovery and innovation in physics since its opening in 1874, including the determination of the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule by Francis Crick and James Watson. The Cavendish also spun out Plastic Logic (which in turn gave birth to FlexEnable), Cambridge Display Technology and Eight19, which then spun out Azuri Technologies.
The future impact of Artificial Intelligence on humanity – the challenges and opportunities – will be the focus of a new research centre being opened by the university thanks to a $14.8 million grant from the Leverhulme Trust.
The rationale for the new hub is that human-level intelligence is familiar in biological ‘hardware’ – it happens inside our skulls – but technology and science are now converging on a possible future where similar intelligence can be created in computers.
Property deals across the cluster in December reached just under $150m. Significant among them was the announcement that Wall Street-quoted Hilton Worldwide that it had signed a franchise agreement to bring Hampton by Hilton to Stansted Airport, which serves the UK capital as well as the Cambridge technology corridor.
A deal was signed with strategic developer Urban&Civic which has secured planning permission to build a new $67 million, 357-bed hotel next to the Stansted terminal. This followed a deal to acquire a two-acre site from MAG Property, the property and development division of Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – owner of Stansted Airport.
Record spending on bloodstock showed there is still plenty of horse sense being shown by worldwide investors who flocked to Tattersalls for the December sales which raised 84.2 million guineas – around $131m.
December was marked by a number of transactions that were relatively modest in terms of value but highly significant with regards to potential implications. UK-Oz medical innovator Avita sold its respiratory business to MVP for $2.4m and Axol Bioscience hurtled into a $900k crowd fundraising with SyndicateRoom.
One of the most intriguing deals in the cluster for some while saw legal expertise and IT innovation converge. Cambridge legal technology startup Pekama raised significant but undisclosed funding in an oversubscribed round backed by an international group of investors. Pekama aims to revolutionise the way lawyers collaborate with their clients. It provides a cloud-based collaboration tool that allows lawyers, clients and third parties to communicate in real-time while eradicating email congestion, centralising access to legal documents and keeping clients up-to-date on the progress of each legal matter.
The platform also automatically populates data feeds with legal updates feeds from Intellectual Property offices and Companies House – with more planned – triggering related task management and events. Cambridge headquartered-law firm Taylor Vinters came on board as an investment partner and David Gill, managing director of St John’s Innovation Centre, is a mentor to the business.
Investors include Ben Gammon at Rockspring Ventures, Guy Feld co-fund manager of Marlborough UK Micro-Cap Unit Trust, Cambridge business angel Nick Balon, and Israeli law firm Lior Pick & Co.
In a typical stampede to get mergers & acquisitions wrapped up ahead of the Christmas gifts, there were 39 notified deals across the region completed for undisclosed sums.
Best guesses for values, given the nature of the companies involved and the going rates for their sectors, puts the estimated total for these transactions at around $175m.
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