David Norwood of Oxford Sciences Innovation has been named Personality of the Year by Global University Venturing

David Norwood could easily be described as a genius of university venturing in the UK – and a genius is indeed what he was called in 2014 by Tom Hockaday, then the chief executive of Oxford University’s tech transfer office Oxford University Innovation.

Astonishingly, with just a few additional years of hindsight, it seems that recognition may have actually been an understatement.

In 2000, Norwood famously helped ink an agreement to raise £20m (at the time, $40m) to gain the right to invest in spinouts from Oxford University’s Department of Chemistry. Investors were so eager that it took a single afternoon to raise the cash.

The deal gave commercialisation firm IP Group (which incidentally has won Investment Unit of the Year 2017) a 15-year right to collect 50% of the revenue arising from the licensing of the chemistry department’s intellectual property. Norwood founded and took the position of chief executive at IP Group, then known as IP2IPO.

Norwood, a history alumnus of Oxford University’s Keble College, has unsurprisingly collected many awards before this one. Among the perhaps more unusual ones are International Master title and International Grandmaster titles, gained in the 1980s.

Over the course of his long career, Norwood has helped found or been a director on companies such as Oxford Nanopore, a spinout that has collected £351m to date, Proximagen, Synairgen, Ilika, Oxford Catalysts and Plectrum Petroleum.

In 2015, Norwood returned to his alma mater once more to support the creation of Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), the university venturing fund that raised an initial £210m in May that year before blowing past its target of £300m in June to reach £320m. Since then, OSI has nearly doubled its firing power, growing to £580m in December 2016. The figure towers over that of all of its university peers in the Western world.

Norwood helped found and became chairman of OSI, where he was joined by Jim Wilkinson as chief financial officer. Wilkinson joined OSI from Lonrho, an Africa-facing conglomerate, where he had held the same position of CFO since 2013.

OSI is still a young fund, of course, but it has already made notable headlines beyond the fundraising as well – an important part of why Global University Venturing is recognising Norwood’s efforts with this award.

SpyBiotech, the biomedical superglue developer spun out of Oxford University, is a case in point: the company obtained £4m in a seed round in March 2017 as it emerged out of the institution, with backers including OSI and GV, the early-stage investment vehicle of conglomerate Alphabet formerly known as Google Ventures. The deal broke new ground by having a corporate venturer invest in a seed-stage university spinout.

The same month, Norwood returned to Keble College to donate £1.9m for a new innovation hub that will house 230 graduate students, a 120-seat lecture theatre, seminar rooms, an exhibition space, a café, a gym and facilities for visiting academics.

Norwood said: “Spinouts need not only capital to succeed, but access to networks, advice and hands-on support. The new development at Keble seeks to build those networks around ideal facilities in a perfect location.

“The college gave me a starting platform to go on to have an impact on UK innovation, and I hope that this gift will encourage others to do the same.”

Is Norwood a genius? Yes, he is. But much more than that he is a man who will pursue tech transfer opportunities, drive innovation and encourage others to do the same. He makes the job look almost deceptively easy.