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London-based virtual reality (VR) startup FundamentalVR has secured $20m (£16.3m) in funding for its immersive medical training tech.

Founded in 2012, FundamentalVR has developed a medical simulation platform that combines VR and haptic feedback to give training surgeons a way to practice procedures.

FundamentalVR claims its tech can accurately mimic the sights, sounds, and physical touch of real surgery.

As well as further developments to its tech platform, FundamentalVR will use the new funding to expand its business geographically, with a focus on the US.

“Our platform can conduct a walkthrough of a procedure through to a full operation, facilitating surgical skills transfer,” said co-founder and chief executive Richard Vincent.

“Our immersive environments transform surgical skills acquisition in a scalable, low-cost, multiuser way. We are excited to scale our vision of creating a medical education environment unhindered by borders.”

The investment was led by EQT Life Sciences, a health tech-focused investment firm established in 2022 by the private equity company EQT Partners. Previous investor Downing Ventures also participated in the Series B round.

“With increasingly complex surgical procedures, it is important to provide medical professionals with new methods for surgical skills transfer and continued training and education while managing both the cost and time burden associated with these activities,” said Drew Burdon, partner at EQT Life Sciences.

“HapticVRTM is a differentiated approach which has already been adopted by a number of high-quality customers, in a short period of time, demonstrating the value that this system can add today”.

As part of the investment deal, Burdon has joined the board of directors for FundamentalVR.

The Series B round has brought the total funding raised by the company to $30m (£24.5m), following a £4.3m Series A round led by Downing Ventures in October 2019.

FundamentalVR has also partnered with notable medical institutions, including the Mayo Clinic and Sana Kliniken.

It follows a record year for British VR funding, with startups raising £154m in 2021.

Patchwork Health, a London, UK-based healthcare workforce platform, raised £20m in Series B funding.

The round was led by Perwyn and backed by Praetura Ventures and KHP Ventures. They were joined by a range of prominent angel investors, including Monzo founder Tom Blomfield and Social Chain Co-founder Dominic McGregor.

The company intends to use the funds to continue to:

  • further strengthen their customer-facing teams,
  • accelerate the development of new products and features for their healthcare clients,
  • expand into international markets, and
  • bring their services to new areas of health and a wider range of sectors.

Founded in 2016 by NHS medics Dr Anas Nader and Dr Jing Ouyang, Patchwork Health offers a range of additional solutions, including:

  • ‘collaborative staff banks’, which help healthcare organisations team up with others in the same region to widen their temporary staffing pool;
  • an innovative new rostering solution which enables more flexible, sustainable staffing for permanent healthcare staff; and
  • an Agency Manager which makes it easier for managers to select appropriate temporary staff from external agencies when necessary.

Patchwork Insights also provides managers with comprehensive data oversight, to monitor staffing trends, shift fill rates and pay rate escalations, and reliably plan ahead to prevent staffing gaps.

The company has a team of over 100.

Patchwork Health has raised £20m in a Series B funding round for its digital platform that lets NHS teams recruit, manage and dispatch both temporary and permanent healthcare workers.

Founded in 2016 by medics, Patchwork aims to relieve the strain on health and care workers in the NHS, which has one of the worst rates of worker stress and burnout due to increased demand and limited staffing.

“NHS staffing isn’t working for NHS staff, but it can be fixed with the right tools,” claims Patchwork co-founder and CEO Dr Anas Nader.

The company provides NHS organisations with a pool of temporary staff that can be custom selected to meet the specific demands of each clinic. Patchwork also provides data to NHS managers to monitor staffing trends and pay rates.

For permanent staff members, Patchwork’s platform can be used to specify personal needs and preferences for staff rotas.

“Our solution gives the NHS the power to make this sustainable staffing a reality, whilst improving staffing levels and safeguarding the quality of patient care,” Nader said.

The Series B round was led by Perwyn, with further backing from existing investor Praetura Ventures, KHP Ventures, and a host of angel investors, including Monzo founder Tom Blomfield.

“The traditional way of staffing our NHS is outdated and is contributing to the pressures our health service is facing,” said Martin le Huray, a partner at Perwyn.

“We believe that Patchwork is well on its way to playing a pivotal role in creating a stronger, more sustainable healthcare system for future generations.”

Patchwork previously raised £3m in a Praetura-led funding round in February 2020.

The funding for Patchwork follows several other funding rounds in the UK digital health tech space, including Suvera, a virtual care platform that raised £5m last month, and Cera Care Limited, which raised £263m last week.

KatKin, a London, UK-based direct-to-consumer health and fresh cat food brand, raised $22m in Series A funding.  

The round was co-led by Perwyn and Verlinvest, which joined Octopus Ventures and angels.

The company intends to use the funds to expand operations and its business reach.

Led by co-founders and siblings Brett and Nikki O’Farrell, KatKin is a cat food brand featuring fresh recipes formulated by a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist® to meet the biological needs of cats. Each recipe uses 100% human-grade meat, that’s gently steam cooked and then frozen fresh, featuring 0% fillers, grains or preservatives. KatKin also controls its entire supply chain, from UK sourcing to carbon-neutral shipping, making sure its fresh cat food is free from any risks associated with mass production.

London-based companies received 80.6% of all venture capital investments last quarter in a sign that regional hubs continue to be overlooked by investors.

Data released by KPMG’s Venture Pulse report shows that £5.8bn of VC investments between April and June went to companies based in London, while £1.4bn was invested across all the other regions around the country combined.

Among the top regional deals was the £84m investment into Manchester-based Freedom Fibre. The company aims to bring fibre connection to two million buildings in the Northwest.

Overall, the £7.2bn raised by UK companies was a decline from the £8.5bn raised in the first quarter in a sign that soaring inflation, rising interest rates and macroeconomic uncertainty from the war in Ukraine is being felt by investors.

However, VC investment for the quarter remained up on the £7bn raised in the year-ago period. Since the start of the year, VC investors have injected £15.7bn into UK companies.

“Despite the global downturn, the value of VC investment in UK businesses continued at a steady pace in Q2 2022. UK businesses have raised over £1.2bn more in the opening half of this year than where we were at this time in 2021,” said Warren Middleton, lead partner at KPMG’s Emerging Giant Centre of Excellence.

It was a gloomier outlook for corporate venture capital investment, which decreased from £4bn in the first quarter of the year to £2.2bn in the following quarter.

UK venture capital deal volume saw a big decline, with 667 deals occurring in the last quarter, the lowest since Q2 in 2018. Deals for the first half of the year saw an 11% drop compared to the first half of 2021.

Middleton added: “Continued challenging economic conditions could hamper levels of VC investment for the remainder of this year and there are already some red flags on the horizon as the volume of UK deals being done in the first half of 2022 is down more than 11% year on year.”

The UK is not alone in a decline in funding. Global venture capital funding fell to £100bn this quarter from £138bn in Q1.

Some sectors have been affected less by the downturn than others, with KPMG observing that investors have been turning to ‘safer’ bets such as finech.

Despite regions outside of London representing a smaller majority, it was found earlier this year that startups based in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield had raised a total of £1.3bn in the last five years.

Digital marketing platform Growth Intelligence has secured £1.5m in funding from Shard Credit Partners’ new UK tech fund.

Specialising in digital campaigns for B2B marketers, Growth Intelligence uses an AI platform to help clients target their respective markets.

The platform stores marketing data and combines the successes and failures of previous campaigns to determine the best course of action. It provides custom AI services for each company based on an analysis of the client’s digital footprint.

Firms that have worked with Growth Intelligence include American Express, Vodaphone, and Western Union.

“Growth Intelligence’s goal is to cement its position as the only platform offering account-based marketing at scale across the US and UK,” said Growth Intelligence CEO Tom Gatten.

“The opportunity for businesses to acquire new customers digitally is growing post-covid, yet most marketing leaders struggle to confidently define their ICP and total addressable market, which leads to high digital ad spending, slow growth, and low conversions.”

The company said it will use the latest round of funding to invest in its commercial team and further develop its proprietary technology.

The funding round marks the third investment from Shard Credit Partners’ UK tech venture debt fund. The fund is specifically targeting British startups operating in fintech and B2B software as a service (SaaS).

“[Shard Credit Partners] has a strong pipeline of opportunities and we expect the pace of deployment to continue through the summer months, supporting positive fundraising momentum as we approach subsequent fund closes through the remainder of 2022,” said Alastair Brown, chief executive of Shard Credit Partners.

Growth Intelligence previously raised £1.7m in an early VC round led by 24Haymarket, with participation from MMC Ventures in 2019. The startup has also been backed by the Tech Nation support programme.

JD Sports Fashion’s search for a CEO is over and it has chosen a seasoned retail executive with experience in a wide range of categories, both in the UK and abroad, it was claimed on Tuesday.

Sky News said that the firm is “close to finalising the appointment of Regis Schultz as its new chief executive”. City sources told it that an official announcement could happen within days.

It would mean French national Schultz stepping into the role formerly filled by ex-company chief Peter Cowgill. He led JD for many years and oversaw its expansion to become Britain's biggest sportswear retailer by market value and a force on the global retail stage. But he stepped down last month after dissatisfaction over the firm’s corporate governance as he combined both the chairman and CEO roles.

Schultz joins from Dubai retail business Al-Futtaim Group, but also held senior posts at British DIY retailer B&Q, as well as at France’s Monoprix.

The depth of his experience underlines JD’s importance as a global retailer.

Travel platform Holibob has raised $12m (£10.1m) in its Series A investment round, led by previous investor Ryan Howsam, the founder and CEO of travel insurance provider Staysure.

Founded in Scotland but now London-based, Holibob is a business-to-business marketplace that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to find activities for tourists while on their travels.

It partners with travel companies including Amadeus, Kayak, and SecretEscapes to create bespoke holiday experiences.

The startup was founded in 2019 by Angus Hardy and Craig Everett. In April, it acquired TourismSolved.

“With the expertise, we have in place and the infusion of capital from this funding round, we’re well-positioned to realise our vision of helping the tours and attractions industry effortlessly connect the right products with the right travellers at the right time,” said Holibob CEO Craig Everett.

In addition to the new funding, the company has gained access to a credit facility. Holibob will use the investment to improve its AI, marketing, content optimisation and consumer experiences.

Holibib said its revenue has grown by 600% over the past six months, with the company likely to have benefitted from the uptick in international travel following the lifting of many Covid-19 restrictions.

Ryan Howsam, investor, Holibob said: “The team’s proven ability to partner with, and more importantly drive revenue for, leading travel brands made it an easy decision to double down on my support for them and their business model, including the extension of a credit line that will allow the team to focus on innovation and execution rather than further fundraising.”

XR Games, a Leeds, UK-based independent games studio and virtual reality (VR) developer, raised £5.9m ($7m) in funding.

The round was led by existing investors act media ventures, Praetura Ventures and Maven.

The company intends to use the funds to grow its team, to move to a larger studio in the city centre, as it invests in intellectual property (IP), to develop new games, and research into VR and augmented reality (AR) technologies.

Led by Bobby Thandi, Founder and CEO, XR Games is an independent games studio and developer of virtual reality (VR) games working with major partners and internationally-renowned brands, including Sony Pictures VR and Rovio Entertainment, to create games for the rapidly-growing VR and AR market. Its first title ‘Zombieland: Headshot Fever,‘ was launched in 2021.

XR Games initially raised £1m in a round led by act media ventures (formerly known as ACT Capital Partners), and subsequently raised £1.5m in a round led by Praetura Ventures alongside act media ventures in 2019. XR Games raised a further £1.5m in 2021 as part of an investment round led by Maven utilising both Maven managed VCT Funds and NPIF – Maven Equity Finance, (Maven) which is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), with backing from act media ventures.

In less than a year, the studio has tripled its headcount to employ more than 85 people and continues to grow. In March, XR Games acquired specialist VR game studio Fierce Kaiju to expand its games portfolio and scale its teams.

UK consumer credit and debit card spending rose 6.2% year-on-year last month as consumers spent more on entertainment and international travel. But Britons are worried about rising living costs and are “becoming more selective about their spending and feeling less able to live within [their] means each month”.

That’s according to Barclaycard, which processes almost half of UK card spending. 

And it said that while spend on essential, utilities, holidays and other leisure activities (such as trips to the cinema or dining out) all rose, spending on household goods saw a noticeable drop. That category fell 5.1% compared to the previous month.

Overall spending on non-essential items was up 7.1% year-on-year, although this was a noticeably lower level of growth than seen in May (11.6%) and April (21.2%), continuing the downward trend seen over the last few months.

Some key retail sectors managed to stay in positive territory for the month with clothing up 2.4%, while sports and outdoor retailers rose 4.9%, pharmacy/health/beauty was up 1.9% and department stores rose 1.8%.

This was boosted by consumers socialising, enjoying more time outdoors in the sunshine and preparing for summer holidays and events.

But what about those concerns for the future? The monthly report always comes with a consumer survey and this showed that 91% of people are concerned about the negative impact of rising household bills on their personal finances. 

Consumers are also feeling less optimistic about their ability to live within their means (66% versus 71% in May), and their ability to spend on non-essential items (48% versus 54%). In addition, confidence in the future of the UK economy has decreased slightly to 25%, down from 27% in May.