The University of Southampton

Z21 Innovation Fund to accelerate University of Southampton Web startups

Published: 16 November 2017

Funding is being made available for projects at the University of Southampton capitalising on the growing potential of the Web through the new Z21 Innovation Fund.

The fund, a collaboration between the University of Southampton and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), launched yesterday with an event at the University’s Highfield Campus during Global Entrepreneurship Week that saw representatives of Solent LEP and the Web Science Institute unveil plans alongside investors, external mentors, students and University staff.

The fund is inviting applications from within the University of Southampton for web-related research projects and early stage commercial initiatives that can be accelerated towards commercialisation and angel funding. Web-based startup projects will be supported towards success with expertise, facilities and support from a network of mentors connected with the University.

Solent LEP has invested £500,000 to support the initiative, which is being matched in-kind by the University, with a view to the Innovation Fund supporting at least 16 potential ventures by March 2019 and generating 40 new direct jobs in the Solent region by March 2021.

Two beta projects from the University have started receiving support from the Z21 Innovation Fund. Aura Vision Labs, founded by two PhD students, is pioneering the next generation of video analytics and the Web Observatory, founded by a research team, is developing a ground-breaking marketplace for datasets and data analytics applications.

Anne-Marie Mountifield, Chief Executive of Solent LEP, commented: “The Solent economy has seen the emergence of new ideas and innovation in the past few years which has underpinned the growth of the Solent economy as a whole. Among the factors underpinning this are the strong knowledge assets of our three universities, each of whom invest in the region’s small business base. The Solent LEP is delighted to be working in a new ground-breaking collaboration with the University of Southampton and our £500,000 Z21 fund delivered in partnership with the Web Science Institute will help create our next generation of innovative University spin-outs..”

The University’s Web Science Institute (WSI) will deliver expert advice to entrepreneurs in the programme while the Future Worlds on-campus incubator will provide acceleration through mentoring, the creation of professional promotional videos and introductions to potential investors.

Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Executive Director of the Web Science Institute and Regius Professor in Computer Science, added: “The University of Southampton is home to some of the most talented students, researchers and academics in the world and benefits from cutting-edge facilities. The Z21 Innovation Fund represents a unique and exciting relationship between the Solent LEP and the University of Southampton that will drive innovation into the real world.”

The Z21 Innovation Fund is seeking applications from potential ventures to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) over a 3-month project before having the opportunity to progress for Pre-Seed funding to further develop the proposition ready for external investment.

The closing date for applications for the first Call is 5pm on Friday 24 November 2017.

If you would like further information, please contact the Z21 Coordination Manager Susan Davies at

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