September 24, 2018 / 11:32 PM / a month ago

Oxford University offers boost for businesses that put people before profit

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - After decades of incubating science and engineering companies, Oxford University announced on Tuesday it is branching out to support businesses that put people before profit, seeking to maximize the impact of its academic research on the world.

The world-leading British university is launching a program to support social enterprises, which aim to benefit society or the environment as well as turning a profit, through its Oxford University Innovation (OUI) arm.

“The university wants to make sure the research it produces has the biggest impact possible that it can make on the world at large,” said Mark Mann, innovation lead for humanities and social sciences at the OUI.

Britain is seen as a world leader in the social enterprise sector, with 100,000 companies employing 2 million workers - as many people as its creative industries - according to membership body Social Enterprise UK (SEUK).

The university said there were 25 new businesses in the pipeline. One runs an online game that teaches healthcare workers how to reduce child mortality rates in Africa and will launch before Christmas.

Many leading global universities play a key role in incubating businesses that emerge from their research, usually in the fields of science, engineering and medicine.

Previous companies incubated at OUI include Natural Motion, which evolved from computer simulations developed in Oxford’s zoology department. It worked on the best-selling video game Grand Theft Auto, and was sold for $527 million in 2014.

OUI has already supported Greater Change, which raises money for homeless people in the English city by scanning QR codes on smartphones, allowing them to raise deposits for secure accommodation.

Founder Alex McCallion said OUI helped organize media coverage, produced the business plan and provided the university’s crowdfunding platform, which enabled them to raise 35,000 pounds in funding.

“OUI is able to put it out to all the Oxford networks, the Oxford Angels (investors) network, the alumni network, which brought in a whole lot of funding we wouldn’t have been able to get through a traditional platform,” said McCallion.

Reporting by Lee Mannion @leemannion, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

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