The finance of biotechnology
: investment in new biotechnology firms by British venture capitalists-attitudes to, and evaluation of, business proposals

  • Ian T. Lawrence

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A notable feature of the recent commercialisation of biotechnology has been the success of 200 or so new firms, established in America since 1976, in exploiting specialised market niches. A key factor in their formation has been the ready availability of venture capital funding. These firms have been instrumental in establishing America's lead in exploiting biotechnology. It is this example which Britain has attempted to emulate as part of its strategy for developing its own biotechnology capabilities. This thesis investigated some aspects of the relationship between biotechnology and venture capital, concentrating on the determinants of the venture capitalist's investment decision. Following an extensive literature survey, two hypothetical business proposals were used to find what venture capitalists themselves consider to be the key elements of this decision. It was found that venture capitalists invest in people, not products, and businesses, not industries. It was concluded that venture capital-backed small firms should, therefore, be seen as an adjunct to the development of biotechnology in Britain, rather than as a substitute for a co-ordinated, co-operative strategy involving Government, the financial institutions, industry and academia. This is chiefly because the small size of the UK's domestic market means that many potentially important innovations in biotechnology may continue to be lost, since the short term identification of market opportunities for biotechnology products will dictate that they are insupportable in Britain alone. In addition, the data analysis highlighted some interesting methodological issues concerning the investigation of investment decision making. These related especially to shortcomings in the use of scoresheets and questionnaires in research in this area. The conclusion here was that future research should concentrate on the reasons why an individual reaches an investment decision. It is argued that only in this way can the nature of the evaluation procedures employed by venture capitalists be properly understood.
Date of Award1988
Original languageEnglish


  • finance
  • investment
  • new biotechnology firms
  • British venture capitalists
  • business proposals
  • small firms
  • project assessment
  • evaluation

Cite this