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Episode 121: Miles Kirby and Duncan Johnson

Duncan Johnson, Miles Kirby: NG Studios helps entrepreneurs think big

Duncan Johnson argues that spinout founders in the north of England need to learn to think bigger. That’s not just a question of access to capital (his investment firm Northern Gritstone has £312m at its disposal) but also of infrastructure to mentor and nurture these founders.

Duncan took a trip to Boston last year where he realised that even the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had benefited from creating The Engine, which has a fund and a deeptech incubator.

To do something similar back home, Duncan found a willing partner in Miles Kirby, chief executive of Deeptech Labs, an accelerator and fund that began with a focus on the Cambridge ecosystem but is today attracting startups from all over Europe.

The two teamed up to launch NG Studios powered by Deeptech Labs, a 10-week accelerator programme that teaches academic founders how to approach their fledgling businesses as potentially world-changing unicorns and to go after big funding rounds. It does it, for example, by bringing in industry experts for 1:1 insights and world-class mentors like serial entrepreneur Stan Boland, who has sold multiple companies (such as fabless semiconductor manufacturer Icera to Nvidia for more than $367m).

It also does it through a demo day, bringing hundreds of potential investors to the north of England, a region historically ignored by VCs that have tended to focus on the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

The first cohort of NG Studios are advanced materials developer Auxetec, robotics software platform BOW, cybersecurity company Cavero, microbial biomanufacturing systems developer Evolutor, single molecule spectroscopy tool producer Exciting Instruments, and protein microgel developer MicroLub.

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Disclaimer: Mawsonia Ltd is a limited partner in Deeptech Labs.

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