Well-known tech scientist and entrepreneur Dr Harry Destecroix is bringing a new deep tech ecosystem to the market, which includes an investment fund and a network of partners to nurture science and engineering start-ups and spin-outs, as he puts it.
In an exclusive interview with City A.M., the founder of Ziylo – which he sold for nearly £600m in 2018 – tells about his new venture.
You are launching a so-called ‘deep tech ecosystem’. For someone who is not too tech-savvy, what does that mean?
Deep tech companies are disruptive because they have the power to create new markets. It takes an ecosystem of support for new technologies to go from being an early discovery or breakthrough in a laboratory to a fully-fledged technology that people can use. After the discovery, the ecosystem provides research facilities to help further advance the technology towards a product, provides expertise to the founders and enables access to the right people and knowledge to grow their companies and finally, of course, this all costs money so that’s where this ventures comes in.
Your new venture includes a £15m VC investment fund. What do you plan to invest in?
The companies we back will cover many sectors including therapeutics, diagnostics, advanced materials, hardware and software.
Is the fund backed by any prominent investors yet?
Our chairman, Jon Craton, has helped cornerstone the fund. He is a seasoned tech entrepreneur who exited his first company Cramer for $425m in 2006. Jon has seen multiple successes, namely the exits of Swiftkey and Zynstra and the AIM listing of Creo Medical.
“The pandemic and current environment has highlighted just how important the role of the scientist is in society.”
Within the tech space, you made a name for yourself when you set up Ziylo, which was sold to Novo Nordisk for around £600m in 2018. Will this be another Ziylo?
This is about taking everything I’ve learnt and pouring it all back into the ecosystem. I want to see others have the opportunity I did and help shift the role of the scientist. I believe they make entrepreneurs. The pandemic and current environment has highlighted just how important the role of the scientist is in society.
Looking back on 2020, which tech trends or developments have been most remarkable for you this year?
Vaccines. To think that it would usually take up to 10 years to get a vaccine approved. Here it is now, being injected into the first patient in the UK. It’s phenomenal to see how the science community has stepped up to make this happen. I know people in Bristol who have been working seven days a week through the whole pandemic on critical parts of research to help understand the virus and develop new vaccines. These technologies can help protect us all – not only our health, but also intertwined with the entire global economy. Never has there been a time where the true value of science has been so obvious to everyone.