Top 23 Venture Capital Funds in the UK (Outside London)

| Millie Cooke

Whilst London attracts the lion’s share of the UK’s venture capital investment, we’re seeing a growing volume and value of deals into the wider regions, too. This activity is being driven by a cohort of incredibly active funds, providing innovative companies across the UK with growth capital.

In this list, we’ve profiled the 23 venture capital funds that have contributed the most to the UK’s regional startup ecosystem over the past decade (2011-Q1 2021). We take a look at the investment criteria of these VC firms and spotlight some of the fast-growing businesses in their portfolios. 

Most active venture capital funds in the UK (excluding London)
2011 – Q1 2021

Fund Name Number of rounds 2011 – Q1 2021 Portfolio companies
BGF Growth Capital
265
215
Mercia Fund Managers
170
93
Par Equity
114
50
Parkwalk Opportunities EIS Fund
102
51
Angel CoFund
86
55
University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund
78
48
SFC Capital
59
51
Maven Capital Partners
55
42
Amadeus Capital Partners
54
27
Lloyds Development Capital (LDC)
49
47
Octopus Ventures
46
26
Downing
43
30
SFC Regional Fund
42
40
Draper Esprit
42
22
Low Carbon Innovation Fund
41
36
IQ Capital Fund
41
24
Parkwalk UK Tech Fund
41
24
Jenson SEIS & EIS Fund
40
40
Calculus Capital
39
26
Wealth Club
38
22
Foresight VCT
37
34
NVM Private Equity
37
31
University of Oxford Innovation Fund
37
24

Although the Beauhurst platform does track unannounced fundraisings, we’re only able to assign investors to a round if their participation has been announced. As such, the actual number of deals completed by these funds may be higher than stated.

BGF Growth Capital

BGF (formerly Business Growth Fund) is an equity investment firm, backed by five of the largest banks in the UK. Since the firm’s founding in 2011, its Growth Capital fund has backed 215 high-growth companies, outside of London, across an impressive 265 funding rounds. BGF Growth Capital, based in London, provides funding for a company’s growth, strategic acquisitions, site roll-outs, product development, sales and marketing infrastructure, and the purchase of new capital assets.

The fund’s initial investments are typically between £2m and £10m, but it can invest up to £15m in follow-on rounds. Notable investee companies in their portfolio include Yorkshire-based holiday lettings business Woodland Lakes Lodges, and automotive startups Oxbotica and ROVOP, headquartered in Oxford and Aberdeen, respectively. 

Mercia Fund Managers

Mercia Fund Managers provides growth capital to companies, alongside business advice and support, usually taking up minority management positions. Focusing primarily on electronics, software, digital entertainment, manufacturing, and life sciences, it typically invests between £100k and £10m, with an exit horizon of four to seven years. It is one of several funds managed by Mercia Asset Management, and is based in the West Midlands.

The fund takes a holistic approach to investment, looking for an empathetic and trustworthy management team, as well as a strong track record, sector experience, and proven traction. Mercia Fund Managers has so far backed more than 90 high-growth companies outside of the capital across an impressive 170 funding rounds. Their portfolio includes Oxford-based healthtech firms PsiOxus Therapeutics and Sense Biodetection, as well as Birmingham-based SaaS startup, Voxpopme. 

Par Equity

Founded in 2008, Par Equity’s venture capital investment model is designed to identify and back the most innovative, high-growth tech companies in the North of the UK. The Edinburgh-based fund typically invests between £500k and £1m, when investing through its EIS fund, and between £1m and £5m through its healthcare fund.

Par Equity’s hybrid investment model, fusing the experience of angel investors with the professionalism and rigour of an experienced venture capital fund manager, favours opportunities where it can leverage the expertise of its partners. The fund has so far backed 50 non-London companies, across an impressive 114 funding rounds. These include venture-stage tech company Sunamp, and Scottish fintech startups Current and Money Dashboard.

Parkwalk Opportunities EIS Fund

The Parkwalk Opportunities EIS Fund supports the commercialisation of scientific discoveries. Parkwalk Advisors is the UK’s leading investor into university spinouts, having raised more than £300m, to date. Its Opportunities EIS Fund invests between £25k and £5m and was the largest growth EIS over the past three tax years.

The fund seeks capital growth by investing in knowledge-intensive tech companies that have defensive intellectual property (IP) and have been spun out of the leading UK research institutions. It has backed 51 ambitious non-London companies, through 102 individual fundraisings, and its portfolio includes two impressive Oxford-based firms, Oxford Photovoltaics and YASA Motors, plus Cambridge-based Congenica.

Angel CoFund

Angel CoFund, managed by ACF Investors, is a £100m fund that was established by a consortium of business angel organisations, created with a grant from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund. Based in Sheffield, Angel CoFund focuses exclusively on SMEs based in the UK, in any sector or stage of evolution, co-investing alongside angel syndicates. It typically invests between £100k and £1m. 

Since 2011, Angel CoFund has backed 55 high-growth companies, outside of London, across 86 equity funding rounds. Notable companies in its portfolio include Bristol tech startup Blu Wireless, Essex-based pharmaceuticals company Atlantic Healthcare, and Buckinghamshire-based firm Sky Medical Technology. 

University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund

Parkwalk’s second fund on this list, the University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund, was established in 2012 in partnership with the University’s Tech Transfer Office, Cambridge Enterprise. The fund supports early-stage scientific and technology companies that have spun out from Cambridge University and are EIS/SEIS eligible. Specifically, the fund invests in companies developing disruptive technologies and new therapies, focusing on healthcare, renewable energy, clean water and food.

Between 2011 and Q1 2021, the University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund has participated in 78 fundraisings outside of London, supporting 48 companies. Its portfolio includes quantum computing startup Nu Quantum, graphene innovator Paragraf, and seed-stage company PsyOmics, which is developing new ways to diagnose mental health disorders, in order to improve misdiagnosis and accelerate time to treatment.

SFC Capital

SFC Capital is a leading investment fund manager with an approach that aims to maximise potential returns whilst lowering the risk associated with early-stage investments. It’s partnered with the likes of British Business Investments to accelerate innovation, providing capital and support to early-stage ventures in the UK.

By combining its angel network and seed funds, SFC Capital has created a unique model that allows investors exposure to SEIS and EIS-eligible businesses, either directly or through a diversified portfolio that’s managed by their team. Although it is based in the capital, the SFC Capital fund has so far backed 51 companies outside of London, across 59 funding rounds, typically investing between £100k and £300k into early-stage startups.

Maven Capital Partners

With over £630m under management, Glasgow-based Maven Capital Partners is one of the UK’s leading private equity and property managers, providing a range of funding options to growth-focused businesses and attractive investment opportunities in alternative assets. The firm’s venture capital fund has so far backed 42 ambitious UK companies outside of London across 55 funding rounds.

Maven typically provides development and replacement capital, anywhere between £1m and £20m, but also supports MBOs, acquisitions, and expansions. Their portfolio includes Chester-based firm ITS Technology Group, and Burlington’s content creation platform AVID. It also includes event data platform Push Technology, which has offices in Reading, Belfast, and Silicon Valley. 

Amadeus Capital Partners

Amadeus Capital Partners provides growth capital and business support for tech companies across the globe, working closely with businesses to share its expertise. Amadeus looks for companies that have an underserved customer base, presence in a growing market, and the potential for international expansion, as well as a clear competitive edge.

Based in St James’s, and founded in 1997, the fund has so far backed 27 high-growth businesses outside of London across 54 funding rounds. It focuses on technology companies, specialising in AI, digital media, medtech, and cybersecurity. Big names in their portfolio include Oxford Nanopore Technologies and Bristol-based firms Graphcore and Five.

Lloyds Development Capital

Lloyds Development Capital (LDC) provides growth capital, in the region of £2m and £100m, and can finance MBOs/MBIs and acquisitions. LDC also provides active support to its portfolio companies, whilst ensuring businesses still run their own affairs. The fund looks to invest £400m per year and has so far backed more than 47 non-London companies across 49 funding rounds. It invests in a wide range of startup sectors, from financial services to media and retail.

Based in Aberdeen, LDC looks to back companies with an ambitious and capable management team, in the post-profit stage of evolution. Notable companies in their portfolio include Hampshire-based Onecom Group, Cheshire’s Rhino Products and Essex-based Atlantic Healthcare.

Octopus Ventures

Octopus Ventures is the European venture capital arm of Octopus Group. Typically investing between £1m (for seed funding rounds) and £10m (for venture rounds), it seeks to continue supporting its portfolio companies through to IPO. Although the fund typically backs European companies, it occasionally invests in businesses based in the US which have ambitions to expand into Europe. 

While Octopus Ventures has a primary focus on the health, fintech, deep tech, and consumer sectors, it invests in a broad range of companies. The fund looks for talented entrepreneurs that are seeking to make a significant, positive impact on the world. So far, it’s supported 26 ambitious companies, outside of London, across 46 funding rounds, including Moray aerospace company Orbex and Oxfordshire-based AR (augmented reality) startup WaveOptics.

Downing

Venture capital firm Downing provides startup companies with equity funding, debt funding or combined equity and debt, ranging from £500k to £20m. Downing looks for ambitious companies led by talented entrepreneurs and, with no geographical restrictions on the companies they choose to back, the fund has developed an international portfolio. It works collaboratively with its portfolio companies to ensure they’re supported every step of the way.

Whilst headquartered in London, the fund has so far backed 30 high-growth UK companies outside of the Capital, across 43 funding rounds. Their portfolio includes digital infrastructure firm Kao Data, Cambridge-based genomic data analysis platform Congenica, and hospitality firm Oakman Inns (which has venues all across the UK). 

SFC Regional Fund

SFC Capital’s Regional Fund focuses on supporting businesses in areas of the UK that typically have less access to early-stage investment. Founded by software veteran, Stephen Page, SFC is the most active seed investment firm in the UK, having backed more than 220 early-stage ventures since 2012.

The regional fund has £40m to invest, with £10m coming from British Business Investments. So far, SFC Regional Fund has backed 40 non-London businesses in the UK, across 42 funding rounds. Its portfolio includes Berkshire-based cleantech company LAT Water, Reading-based sustainable property management firm Shepherd, and biotech spinout Oxford Immune Algorithmics.

Draper Esprit

To date, Draper Esprit has backed more than 22 ambitious UK companies outside of the Capital, through 42 fundraisings. Although headquartered in London, their portfolio includes Berkshire’s Displaydata and Bristol-based AI firms Graphcore and Xmos. All technology companies are eligible to apply for funding, but it focuses on companies operating in consumer tech, enterprise tech, e-commerce, and digital health.

The fund backs businesses at any stage of evolution but invests primarily in European companies, typically between £2m and £50m, depending on growth stage. It’s looking for businesses that can demonstrate their product has a market and some existing commercial traction.

Low Carbon Innovation Fund

Low Carbon Innovation Fund is a co-investment initiative, worth over £100m, aimed at SMEs that are developing or deploying environmentally-beneficial technologies. The fund works across a range of sectors, but applicants must be committed to low carbon emissions. It’s managed by venture capital firm Turquoise International, and provides growth capital for most business development purposes, including the creation and safeguarding of jobs.

Based in Norwich, in the East of England, the fund has so far backed 36 non-London companies, across 41 rounds. Its portfolio includes Edinburgh’s Sustainable Marine Energy, Newcastle-based Future Transport Systems and University of Cambridge spinout TeraView. 

Low carbon innovation, solar panels

IQ Capital Fund

IQ Capital Fund, managed by IQ Capital Partners, offers active business support and funding to deep tech startups, ranging from machine learning and artificial intelligence to eHealth and robotics. Initial investments range from £500k to £10mbut the fund can invest as much as £30m for growth stage investments in existing portfolio companies.

The Cambridge-based fund supports companies from seed stage to exit and has so far provided venture capital funding to 24 high-growth UK companies outside of London, across 41 funding rounds. Big names backed by the firm include University of Cambridge spinout Paragraf, MedTech Fluid Analytics, and wireless software firm Cambridge Communication Systems. 

Parkwalk UK Tech Fund

The Parkwalk UK Tech Fund tends to invest alongside other funds managed by Parkwalk Advisors. Having launched in January 2021, the new fund will build on the company’s track record of investing in university spinouts and will close at the end of the tax year in April. It invests in UK technology businesses and looks for genuine product innovation from its portfolio companies.

The fund has so far participated in 41 funding rounds into 24 high-growth UK companies, located outside of the Capital. These include Cambridgeshire-based PhoreMost, a drug target identification platform, as well as YASA Motors and University of Cambridge spinout Congenica, which produces rare-disease diagnosis software.  

Jenson SEIS & EIS Fund

Since launching in 2012, Jenson Solutions has launched five SEIS and four EIS funds and invested £16m into 100 UK businesses. The Jenson SEIS & EIS Fund has so far supported 40 ambitious companies headquartered outside of the Capital across 40 rounds of funding. Whilst it doesn’t publish its investment range, our research indicates that the fund typically invests between £100k and £5m, with an exit horizon of 5 to 7 years.

The London-based fund provides growth capital, as well as financial and operational support, to firms with a credible management team, evidence of commercial traction, and strong growth potential. Its portfolio includes Aberdeen-based portable pint company EBar, Edinburgh-based ticketing agency Live It, and a company in Hertfordshire that’s producing the world’s first interactive virtual reality (VR) chair, Roto VR.

Calculus Capital

Founded in 1999, Calculus Capital has backed 26 high-growth UK companies outside of London, across 39 funding rounds. As well as providing ongoing business support to its portfolio companies, the fund prefers to take a seat on their boards. It typically invests between £2m and £5m, into UK-based businesses, with an exit horizon of four to five years.

Calculus Capital looks to invest in companies with experienced management teams, and proven successful products or services, with a strong commercial position. And, although not a requirement, the fund prefers to invest in companies that qualify for the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) or Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) for early-stage companies, the government tax relief schemes designed to support small businesses.  

Wealth Club

Bristol-based Wealth Club is the UK’s largest investment platform for high-net-worth and experienced investors—in 2018, it was named “Best Investment Platform” at the Growth Investor Awards. Although Wealth Club is relatively young, its founding members have years of investment experience.

To date, Wealth Club has invested in 22 high-growth UK companies located outside of London, through 38 fundraisings. Its portfolio includes healthtech startups Inotec AMD (based in Cambridgeshire) and Visionable (based in Kent), alongside safeguarding assistant SafeToNet. Although the fund doesn’t publish its investment range, our research indicates it typically invests between £50k and £3.5m into UK businesses. 

Foresight VCT

Foresight VCT has so far backed a total of 34 non-London companies in the UK, across 37 funding rounds. The London-based fund is managed by Foresight Group, whose co-foundersventure capitalists Bernard Fairman and Peter Englishmet while working at tech-focused 3i Ventures. ESG is at the heart of Foresight VCT’s mission, as it seeks to achieve attractive returns for investors, alongside positive social and environmental outcomes.

While the venture capital trust focuses on businesses in the post-revenue stage of evolution, it backs companies in a broad range of industries, from business services to healthcare. Its portfolio includes fintech Reward Finance, which has offices in both Leeds and Manchester, and healthtech companies Biofortuna and Fertility Focus. According to our research, most of the fund’s activity lies in financing MBOs and providing growth capital. 

NVM Private Equity

Typically investing between £5m and £15m, NVM Private Equity provides finance to companies to facilitate organic growth, support MBOs, partake in R&D, or facilitate acquisitions. As well as taking a seat on the Board of Directors, the Newcastle-based fund likes to develop a strong working relationship with the management teams of its investee companies. Focusing on firms based outside of London, NVM Private Equity typically invests in businesses with an EBITDA between £1m and £4m. When looking for companies to back, it looks for ones that hold a good position in an interesting market, as well as a strong and reliable management team.

The fund’s portfolio includes Voxpopme, Manchester-based e-commerce and delivery management platform Sorted, and Edinburgh-based training management platform Administrate. The fund has so far backed 31 non-London companies, across 37 rounds of funding. 

University of Oxford Innovation Fund

Established in 2014, the University of Oxford Innovation Fund (UOIF) invests across all areas of technology and intellectual property emerging from the university, including new software companies. So far, the fund has backed 24 high-growth UK companies, headquartered outside of the Capital, through 37 fundraisings. Its portfolio includes automotive companies Oxbotica and YASA Motors, plus solar tech startup Oxford Photovoltaics.

One of four university funds managed by Parkwalk Advisors, with Oxford University Innovation as its Portfolio Advisor, this fund offers a tax-efficient opportunity to university alumni and investors, whilst providing an additional source of investment to Oxford spinouts and startup ventures. Alongside investment, UOIF offers additional resources and its expertise to encourage the spinout process. 

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