cover art for Beyond the Breakthrough episode 102 featuring Mark Mann

Can British university research help families in South America secure a mortgage? That’s what the University of Oxford did with its social venture spinout SOPHIA Oxford, which analyses contributing factors to poverty from the state down to the corporate level and helps companies make better choices for their employees.

It’s one of the successes celebrated by Mark Mann, who started out in tech transfer at the BBC, moved to the University of Oxford and now runs his own consultancy business helping universities across Europe build spinouts with social impact at their core.

It’s not an easy task and raising capital can be a nightmare — Mann has seen his share of failures, such as his attempt to raise a fund on behalf of social venture collaboration Impact12 in 2020. But examples like SOPHIA Oxford show that these social impact spinouts can have real benefits, and can be a powerful force in international development.

But what do you have to watch out for when setting up a social venture? How does it differ from setting up a social enterprise? And are those challenges the same in every country? (Spoiler: No. In some jurisdictions, like the US or France, social ventures don’t exist as a legal concept.) Mann has advice for universities, would-be founders and PraxisAuril, the UK’s knowledge exchange association which recently hired staff specifically to bring social venture spinouts into the mainstream.


Thierry Heles

Thierry Heles is the editor of Global University Venturing, host of the Beyond the Breakthrough interview podcast and responsible for the monthly GUV Gazette (sign up here for free).