A world-leading UK business incubator and start-up accelerator network raised record levels of investment in 2018.

SETsquared Partnership, which is run by five universities in Southern England – in Bath, Bristol, Southampton, Surrey and Exeter – raised £292 million, a 34 per cent increase on 2017.

The figure has bucked the national trend which recently showed early-stage investment in UK start-ups hit a four-year low in 2018.

The announcement was made at SETsquared’s second annual Scale-Up Investor Business breakfast, hosted in partnership with KPMG at its Mayfair office, which saw five budding scale-up businesses pitch to a room full of active investors.

In 2018 SETsquared Partnership was also ranked as the global number one university-backed business incubator for the second year in a row.

“We know that investors are increasingly looking for innovative, IP-led businesses with tangible assets, which is what SETsquared businesses have at their core,” said Karen Brooks, programme director at SETsquared.

“We are also bucking the national trend because our members sit within the knowledge economy and are creating higher value for the UK.

“This is vital for the future growth of this country and we urge investors to continue supporting UK SMEs.”

The five scale-up companies pitching for investment were medical device companies, Bioinduction and Docobo; Zeetta Networks, which is addressing the needs of network operators; metal composite and additive manufacturer, TISICS; and the revolutionary commercial cleaning business, Steam-e.

Peter Davies, founder and CEO of machine learning company Verv, which recently exceeded its crowdfunding target by 136 per cent, commented: “We’ve been a SETsquared member since our inception in 2010 and it’s fair to say we wouldn’t be where we are today without its unwavering support, advice and contacts.

“SETsquared was especially helpful in getting us to a position where our technology was ready to be invested in and to date we’ve raised more than £5m.

“Programmes like the Scale-Up Programme are essential for giving businesses like mine access to investors which we need to grow – we couldn’t have done it without them.”

The Partnership also used the event to soft-launch a new investment platform, a ‘shop window’ for investors looking to access high-tech, high-growth investment opportunities from across the SETsquared portfolio.

There are currently ten investment opportunities live on the platform, which has been developed by Envestors, the FinTech company that connects investors and scale-up companies.

The SETsquared Investment Programme, which runs throughout all of SETsquared support programmes, helps introduce businesses with investors at every stage of their growth and to become ‘investment ready.’

Since SETsquared’s last Scale-Up Investor Business Breakfast event in October 2018, more than £7m worth of investment has or is due to close this month, with £45m in progress since the scale-up programme launched in April 2018.