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Innovation Finance: public or private? (CIMR Debates and Workshops in Public Policy)

Venue: Online

Join the Centre for Innovation Management Research on Wednesday 27 October for the online debate: Innovation Finance: public or private?

The online debate is part of the CIMR Debates and Workshops in Public Policy series.


  • Professor Asa Lindholm Dahlstrand, Circle Lund University
  • Professor Peter Jelfs, Brunel University
  • Dr Iain Evans, Physical Sciences Innovation


  • Rebecca Todd, Longwall Ventures


  • Professor Tim Vorley, Oxford Brookes University



In this debate, the respective roles of public and private funding for innovation and entrepreneurship are interrogated. This is timely because of some misconceptions about the role of venture capital (VC) in financing innovation. On the one hand public financing differs from venture capital – for example, while VC aims for high growing firms, while on the other public funding should instead aim for wider indirect and system effects. Indeed VC is only appropriate for companies that offer potential scale investment returns which only applies to a very small proportion of small and medium sized enterprises. While in some circumstances, policy makers think they should also aim for high growth firms it is arguable that this should not be their primary objective. Thus VC and public funding have very different roles to play.

To explore these arguments, evidence will be drawn from Sweden public (Vinnova) funding of innovative SMEs and from the UK. Professor Lindholm Dahlstrand will present data from a recent Vinnova project where two thirds of the funded SMEs are university spin-offs/startups.  Professor Peter Jelfs will draw from his experience of working with Department for International Trade and discuss issues relating to the very different kinds of financing that companies looking to set up and invest in the UK have access to. From the other side of the pond, Iain Evans share his experience in creating and investing in deep science in Canada.  Rebecca Todd will lead us into the debate with her observations from a private sector perspective.

By way of context, some information on the UK venture capital market can be found on UK Venture Capital Funding News and Insights. Please also see this link on the UK government involvement in the supply of capital. Rishi Sunak expects £500bn Long-Term-Asset Fund to launch this year


Asa Lindholm Dahlstrand is Professor in Innovation Studies at CIRCLE, Lund University and was Director of CIRCLE between 2016 and 2019. She is also Visiting Professor at Birkbeck, University of London, at the South African University and at Chalmers University of Technology. The overriding theme in her research is technology-based entrepreneurship and industrial dynamics. She has been a project leader in a many externally funded research projects and is a member of a high number of Expert Groups, Reference groups and Advisory groups. She has a particular interest in both innovation and entrepreneurship policy.

Peter Jelfs is Professor (Professional Practice) – Accounting, Brunel University. He is formerly Head of Tax Services within the Investment Directorate at the Department for International Trade (DIT) where he previously worked as a consultant. His role at DIT encompassed providing UK tax and business policy guidance to potential overseas investors, training DIT colleagues around the world on the UK’s tax and business environment and feeding UK tax policy issues around foreign direct investment (FDI) to tax policy-owning departments such as HMT and HMRC. Peter has a PhD from the School of Management at Birkbeck, University of London. His research interests lie within the fields of tax and FDI, and innovation incentives. He worked as a tax consultant in large accountancy and law firms for a number of years.

Iain Evans has over 15 years of experience in creating and investing in deep science. He is currently the Investment Lead at Canada's Digital Technology Supercluster. He has been instrumental in the foundation and development of the Supercluster's technology leadership strategy, where it has funded companies and applied R&D focused on precision health, digital twins and data commons. Previously, Iain was a Director and Advisor to the President of UBC, with special focus on innovation and strategic partnerships. Before UBC, Iain had roles with Yaletown Venture Partners, focusing on sourcing, evaluating and monitoring of venture investments, TPV Ltd focusing on technology commercialization and the UN Environment Programme. Iain holds a degree in Geosciences from Edinburgh University, and a PhD from the University of Cambridge.

Rebecca Todd invests in early-stage life science and medical technology companies for Longwall Ventures. She for began venture investing in 2006 while at Oxford Capital, where she took responsibility for the Oxford Gateway Funds’ investments into healthcare and life science companies. She went on to become Director, Healthcare Ventures at Imperial Innovations (now part of IP Group). Her earlier career was as a marketing consultant to pharmaceutical and life science technology companies. Rebecca has a PhD in Genetics from Nottingham University and an MBA from Oxford University. She joined Longwall Ventures in 2017 after a sabbatical break spent exploring South America in a campervan.

Professor Tim Vorley is Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Oxford Brookes Business School, and is the VCG lead for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise. An economic geographer by training, Tim’s research and publications are predominantly in the fields of entrepreneurship, enterprise and regional economic development. Through his research he continues to work extensively with a number of central government departments and agencies, as well as with Local Enterprise Partnerships and local government bodies. As an active researcher, Tim currently leads the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)/Innovate UK-funded Innovation Caucus and is Co-Director of the ESRC-funded Productivity Insights Network, as well as partnering on several projects under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Tim is currently the Vice-Chair of the Small Business Charter, created by Lord Young to recognise business schools that play an effective role in supporting small businesses and student entrepreneurship.


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