I recently found myself rummaging in the online records of the National Digital Research centre. This body is a workplace neighbour of mine, and describes itself like so;
NDRC is an independent enterprise dedicated to accelerating research from idea to income.
Which description left me nearly none the wiser. Was this a State quango? It says it is Independent, but independent of what? It says it is an enterprise. Does that mean it is being run for profit?
The answers to these questions seem to be, Yes, Unknowable and In Theory, respectively.
It is a joint effort by Dublin’s universities to commercialise their research, with money supplied by the Dept of Communications.
This is a good idea.
What is peculiar is that (as Antoin O’Lachtnain mentioned on Twitter) the Annual Report 2011 for the NDRC don’t include a balance sheet. The return on investment in 2010 is cited, in a single pull out box not referred to in the text, as “1.2x”.
Now, I’m barely numerate. This puts me in the front rank of most solicitors. But that figure seemed a bit light. But what do I know? I thought I’d check what normal looked like in the world of early stage investment- also termed Angel Investing (unless I have that wrong. Please let me know if I have.)
Poking Google, it disgorges information from the University of New Hampshire’s Centre for Venture Research on angel investors in tech businesses.
In what is described hereas a “rather modest ROI perspective” the typical technology Angel Investor reportedly expects seven-in-seven. Or, in other words
They require seven times their investment over an expected holding period of seven years…
The NDRC hasn’t been running that long. But there are also figures for returns based on earlier exists. Successful angel investors, after 3.5 years produced 2.6 their invested capital.
There is no reason why the NDRC, with the potential resources of Dublin’s entire academic community, shouldn’t expect to be successful generating good returns on public money.
But, as far as I can see, at “1.2x” citizens are not getting the return on their investments they might have expected.