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July 2021

Space Forge – a business started in Bristol that is developing a reusable manufacturing space satellite – is set to become a leading player in the industry after raising an undisclosed amount in seed funding from around the world. 

Space Forge, began in a garage in Bradley Stoke, Bristol and has now grown to 15 people in a new satellite manufacturing facility in Cardiff. 

Among the first to recognise the potential of the business were 26 members of Bristol Private Equity Club. The group of entrepreneurs who have all run successful businesses have invested for the second time bringing their stake in Space Forge up to £500,000. 

The new seeding round was led by Type One Ventures and Space Fund. DBW, BPEC, E2MC,, Virgin Galactic’s George T Whitesides, Newable Ventures and Voyager Space Holdings’ Dylan Taylor are also participating in the round. 

Jerry Barnes, founder of BPEC, said: “I believe this is one of the most exciting ventures that members of the Bristol Private Equity Club have put money into. Last year we had 12 members keen to get involved and that has now more than doubled as we have learned more about the potential of Space Forge. 

“It will be a game-changer for manufacturing throughout the world, which is why we are now seeing major investment from all around the world into a project that was first backed by local entrepreneurs with an eye for success.” 

Space Forge founders Joshua Western and Andrew Bacon secured the funding and can now concentrate on moving towards launching the manufacturing satellites would circle the earth for between two weeks and six months, depending on the process being undertaken. 

Materials that benefit from being made in weightlessness, a vacuum or absolute zero temperatures would be made before the satellites return to earth to be reused. This would make them the first ever reusable satellites that do not need a space shuttle to catch and return them. 

Joshua Western, Chief Executive, said: “This is another major step forward for us and to have investment from all over the world is a fantastic endorsement of our ultimate aim to make alloys and other materials in space in a way that is efficient in a way not possible today and which will prevent megatonnes of CO2 from reaching our atmosphere.” 

Harshbir Sangha, Growth Director, UK Space Agency said: “Like many UK space businesses, Space Forge is growing strongly – and this new investment will drive further growth by helping improve manufacturing processes in Space. “It is another fantastic example of how government and private sector investment is supporting innovation in the commercial space sector, which now employs 45,000 people and generates £16.4bn for the UK economy.” 

Will Britton of AutonoMe answers questions about investment.
July 2021

AutonoMe, which has received funding from BPEC, is a Bristol-based EdTech provider that combines technology with one-to-one support to improve outcomes for vulnerable people in Education and Social Care. Recently City Funds contributed £150,000 to help AutonoMe roll out a new digital employment training service for vulnerable people in Bristol.

Tell me about AutonoMe: what problem are you trying to solve?

The main problem we’re trying to solve is the challenge that vulnerable people have around developing and maintaining their independent living skills. if you’re a young person and you need help developing cooking skills or cleaning skills, you will have a support worker standing next to you teaching you those skills. And we acknowledge that this is really valuable. What AutonoMe is doing is developing a solution that is a combination of staff and technology. This means that when the staff are not there, the technology is always accessible to provide development towards independence.

Tell me about the major milestones you’ve hit and why you needed investment.

When we started, we were developing our solution for adult social care. But we started to notice that if we supported someone earlier in life and worked with them in school or college, then they wouldn’t probably need us at 35. As a result, we started working on a pathway that spanned social care as well as education and employment. This drove our desire to expand and support this entire pathway with our platform. We needed this funding to help us build out that platform, so we could support people at an earlier stage in their life.

Why did you seek out impact investors, rather than pursue typical sources of investment?

Practically, our industry can be quite slow to adopt, so we were needing a form of investment that was very patient. But more than that, we were keen to work with someone who was not just focused on the finances, but also looking at how much overall value is being derived from the investment.

Internally, we look at things like social return on investment. What is the value for AutonoMe? But also, what’s the impact on our sector as a whole? And what’s the impact of increasing people’s confidence? We felt a lot of alignment with this and the mission-driven local investment ecosystem. When we went out for investment it was very important for us that our investors really understand what’s going on. That’s why we landed on City Funds and Bristol Private Equity Club as two of the key investors in this round.

How are you going to use the funds, and how is that going to benefit Bristol?

We’ve forged a partnership with the City of Bristol College and we’re rolling out AutonoMe to the Brislington Centre. We’re helping students with our platform so when they transition out of college they have that confidence and ability to live more independently.

As of September, we’ll be working with the college to roll out this provision to about 500 EHCP [Education and Health Care Plan] students. AutonoMe will provide

benefits to the student, but also potentially to the teachers by providing evidence of learning and progress throughout the academic year and then support them to have good OFSTED outcomes as a result.

Congratulations on a successful funding round! What do you know now that you wish you knew when you set out?

It always takes longer than you think. And it changes the whole time. So it’s important to be very clear on what you want out of it. An investor is going to be embedded into the whole journey so it’s important to know who you’re partnering with. Do private investors understand what we’re trying to achieve? Do they get how long that will take? Are they motivated by not just the financial returns, but social as well? It’s important to target the right investors, understand what they want out of it, and what value they can offer in addition to their capital, like networks and opportunities. There’s always more than just financial benefits, and that’s worth exploring up front.

What’s next for AutonoMe?

In addition to our work with the college, we have another project that is developing people’s pre-employment skills. This is supported by UFI, and we’re looking at how AutonoMe can help vulnerable people into paid employment. This is a 12-month project and it’s going very well. The idea is that we can provide support to someone from a very young age for as long as they need us. And it wouldn’t matter what kind of pathway they go through, either social care or the public sector, we would be able to support them along that pathway because we have something we can offer at every step of the way.

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