Innovation & Enterprise


Global University Venturing interview highlights UCL support for SMEs during pandemic

11 February 2021

Dr Martin Davies, Director for Innovation Partnerships, UCL Innovation & Enterprise, describes how UCL is supporting SMEs through the current crisis. Two UCL startup founders also share how they’ve been supported.

In an interview feature with Global University Venturing’s editor, Thierry Heles, Martin explains how UCL Innovation & Enterprise has supported approximately 120 SMEs during 2020. Their target is to support 360 over two years.

The focus of this support, funded by Innovate UK, is to help local SMEs manage the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Helping SMEs through three routes

Martin explains how SMEs come to UCL Innovation & Enterprise through one of three routes:

  • businesses that have an Innovate UK grant are referred to UCL 
  • through intermediate partners, such as national accelerator Catapult Network. 
  • UCL’s own spinouts and startups. 

The aim in each case is to build a long-term relationship with the business.

Supporting UCL startups to pivot in a pandemic

Thierry also interviewed two UCL startup founders who have benefitted from UCL Innovation & Enterprise’s support. 

One company is Kalgera, who have developed a platform to protect vulnerable people from financial exploitation. Dr Dexter Penn, Clinical Research Fellow at the UCL Dementia Research Centre and founder of Kalgera, explains how he created Kalgera initially as an app to alert family members to fraud. However, they now also help institutions interpret the financial behaviours of their customers to protect them from abuse.

Oslr is a platform that helps teaching doctors to schedule hospital bedside training for students. Alan Pooley, Oslr’s Chief Operating Officer, talks about how they joined BaseKX, UCL’s entrepreneurship hub in King’s Cross, and were helped to secure an Innovate UK grant. From there, the company started building a team and signed an agreement with online courses provider BMJ Learning. Oslr has now adapted its offering to cover scheduling social care training.

What matters to London matters to UCL

Martin concludes by talking about how “what matters to London matters to UCL”.

He said: “London is going to be cushioned to an extent from what changes might happen. London is a financial centre and has a growing tech sector so there is some resilience.

“Universities are a key player in helping the country move forward in reflating the economy and coming up with new avenues for business creation. UCL sees itself as part of the bricks and mortar of this place: what matters to London matters to us and that includes helping the economy and helping SMEs grow.”


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