East’s innovators net £350m as venture capitalists swoop

PBD Biotech's Actiphage test is aimed at providing a faster and more accurate way to test TB in cattle

PBD Biotech has netted £2.3m from investors after developing a new faster and more accurate way of testing cattle for TB - Credit: Archant

Investment in innovative businesses based in the East of England has shot up this year as firms emerge from the pandemic, a study shows.

Venture Pulse –  a quarterly report published by KPMG Private Enterprise –  found more than £350m was poured into regional businesses by venture capitalists in the first three months of 2021 –  a 65% rise on the same period last year.

Among the beneficiaries were PBD Biotech based at Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds –   which has developed a rapid test for tuberculosis in livestock –  and plant-based meat alternative food maker Jack & Bry, which is registered in Swaffham. 

PBD Biotech has received £2.3m in venture capital (VC) investment, while Jack & Bry, which was started by Bryony Tinn-Disbury in 2018 and uses jackfruit to make meat alternatives –  has netted £1.25m.

PBD’s Actiphage test –  which can detect TB either through blood or milk –  scooped an innovation award earlier this year from Veterinary Record, the official journal of the British Veterinary Association (BVA). The company is headed up by chief executive Mark Hammond.

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Other big winners in the investment boom include Chelmsford-based Tevva, which designs and develops mass-market extended-range electric-powered trucks. It secured nearly £9m funding in an oversubscribed round of investors –  mainly from the US and Canada.

Cambridge-based biopharmaceutical company Phoremost raised an impressive £33m.

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Chris Wilson, Head of Corporate Finance for KPMG in the East of England said: “The East of England continues to attract venture capitalists from across the world interested in investing in fast-growth, disruptive businesses. The ability of the region to produce both large, late stage businesses which attract investors with deep pockets, as well as nurture early stage businesses with ambitious growth plans, is testament to the diversity of the region.

“Emerging from the pandemic, the VC market moved at an incredible pace, with £92bn invested in innovative companies globally. Continuing to focus on enhancing our competitiveness in the UK post-Brexit is key, but supporting our disruptors, particularly early stage businesses, will be crucial to continue to develop our ecosystem and maintain our global position as leaders in innovation.”

Nationally, more than £5.1bn of VC investment was ploughed into UK businesses in the first quarter of 2021 –  up 25% on the last quarter of 2020.

Business-to-business services was likely to continue to attract investment among VC and corporate venture capital (CVC) investors, he predicted. 

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