12/06/2007

Finance Wales invests £500,000 into Mid Wales bioscience firm

The development of a new Integrated Sheep Breeding System is forging ahead the expansion of a Mid Wales bioscience company as part of a funding package supported by a £500,000 equity investment from Finance Wales


Innovis Ltd of Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, has developed a new production system which is based upon sheep which naturally express the ‘Inverdale’ gene. The gene, which was identified by scientists in New Zealand, can increase fertility and productivity in sheep by up to 25 per cent and Innovis has obtained the sole European and UK licence for the utilisation of sheep which carry this particular trait.

The Integrated Sheep Breeding System is the first of its kind in the UK and incorporates a range of traits which will benefit farmers by helping them to produce leaner, well-muscled sheep with a better resistance to disease. One leading UK retailer has already expressed its support for this new approach.

Finance Wales is providing an equity investment to support Innovis’ expansion as part of an £826,500 funding round and will take a minority stake in the company. Other investors are directors and staff at Innovis which was formed in 2002 as a spin-out from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth with support from Finance Wales’ Wales Spinout Programme. Recognised as a leader in assisted breeding services to the sheep and pig industries, the company employs 54 people at five sites which include their main sheep centres in Aberystwyth, Malvern in Worcestershire and Edinburgh.

Dewi Jones, Managing Director of Innovis Ltd, said: “This new Integrated Sheep Breeding System and the work we’re undertaking based upon the Inverdale gene will have significant benefits for the sheep industry throughout Europe and the UK. To date many strategies exist to improve the fertility of ewes and to improve the carcass weight and meat quality but progress continues to be slow. This System will open up new supply-chain opportunities for hill and lowland breeders.”

He added: “The funding package will enable us to take forward the breeding programme in our nucleus flock which will enable us to produce the number of animals which will be needed to meet demand. It will ensure that we can fully exploit these opportunities and take the business forward. Critical to this was the investment from Finance Wales which will allow us to develop this structured breeding programme.”

Karen Davies, Investment Executive at Finance Wales, said: “The potential for Innovis to take forward this new genetics project is massive and will benefit the European and UK sheep industry.”

She added: “Innovis is recognised throughout the world as a leader in the field of assisted sheep and pig breeding services and this latest investment opportunity will provide significant opportunities for the company as well as strengthening its relationship with Catapult Genetics in New Zealand, which identified the Inverdale gene and has been working closely with Innovis.”

Hugh James and Broomfield & Alexander advised Innovis and Morgan Cole advised Finance Wales on the transaction.