Socially positive investments
The University is investing up to £8 million in socially positive causes across Edinburgh and the UK.
Social investment means investing in organisations, funds and projects that deliver a social benefit alongside a traditional financial return, such as organisations working to dismantle poverty or by supporting social enterprises to upscale their work.
As social institutions, all universities should be committed to making the world a better place, and social impact investment provides a mechanism for enabling this.
In 2019 the University committed to invest £8 million in socially-positive activities and published a Social Enterprise and Social Investment Strategy. The strategy sets out our vision to be recognised as the leading UK university for social enterprise and investments by the academic year 2023-24.
As of January 2024, over £7 million has been invested in social impact funds.
Our social investments
The University has committed to invest £1.75 million in Big Issue Invest, a social investment organisation which is a group of subsidiaries of the Big Issue Magazine Group, one of the best known social enterprises in the United Kingdom. The investment is used to offer loans to social enterprise, charities and profit-with-purpose businesses.
Social Enterprise Investment Fund II (SEIF II)
SEIF II supports ambitious social enterprises and charities with sustainable business models looking to grow and extend their social impact. The Fund offers repayable finance of between £250,000 and £3 million for growth, working capital and capital expenditure purposes. The University has committed £1 million to this fund.
Growth Impact Fund
The Growth Impact Fund is a £25m evergreen fund, investing in early and growth stage organisations. It is delivered by Big Issue Invest and UnLtd, and is supported by a £250,000 investment from the University.
To date, the Growth Impact Fund has invested over £1 million with startups and entrepreneurs aiming to build fairer societies, championing talent from traditionally marginalised communities.
£1m investment will be force for social good
Power Up Scotland
£500,000 of the total investment is with Power Up Scotland.
Power Up Scotland was launched in 2018 by Big Issue Invest, the University of Edinburgh and other key partners. The fund develops early stage social businesses through investment, business support and cross-sector partnerships.
One of the local groups that received funding was Viarama, a start-up using virtual reality technology as a force for good. They work to improve the quality of life among senior citizens and school children by working with hospices, nursing homes and schools to immerse people in a variety of settings and experiences.
Hey Girls, a social enterprise combatting period poverty by giving away a box of organic menstrual products for each purchase of their environmentally-friendly products, was another of the organisations involved with Power Up Scotland.
Social Investment Scotland is a social enterprise and charity offering loan funding and business support for social enterprises, charities and community groups.
Scottish Social Growth Fund 2
In May 2019, the University invested £1 million into the Scottish Social Growth Fund 2 managed by Social Investment Scotland.
The fund, worth £17 million in total, enables social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups to access affordable and flexible loans of between £100,000 and £1.7 million to support them to deliver community projects that do everything from creating employment to protecting the environment, all while contributing to the wider economy.
Recently the fund helped to secure the future of Scotland's first 100% community-owned, subsidy-free wind turbine.
Scottish Social Growth Fund 2 (external)
In the UK, around 10 million people have to pay extra costs for the same goods and services as people who are financially better off. This is called the poverty premium, the extra cost of being poor.
Big Society Capital (external)
Fair by Design Fund
The Fair by Design Fund by Big Society Capital is a venture fund that invests in organisations tackling the poverty premium. The early-stage businesses receiving investment from the Fund provide services in sectors such as energy, insurance, borrowing, transport and food. The fund’s investment process includes a focus group of people with lived experience of the poverty premium.
Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC) was launched in 2014 as one of the UK’s first social investment funds. The award-winning Social and Sustainable Housing (‘SASH’) fund offers commercial financial returns and measurable social impact. The University is championing the SASH fund to support organisations in Edinburgh as part of its ‘Social and Civic Responsibility Plan’ and in keeping with its track record of responsible investment locally to benefit society.
Social and Sustainable Capital (external)
Social and Sustainable Housing Fund
In May 2021, SASC provided a loan of up to £5 million to SCS - partly funded by a £1 million investment from the University of Edinburgh. The loan enables Simon Community Scotland to purchase properties in Edinburgh which will provide safe and affordable accommodation for up to 30 rough sleepers and homeless people in the city.
Prosper Social Finance is the UK’s first student-run socially responsible investment fund. The University is investing £10,000 a year for five years to support Prosper's team of student analysts to manage a values-driven equity portfolio.
Since its inception, Prosper has trained over 200 students through its eight-week Analyst Training Programme, focusing on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investments.
Prosper engages closely with community initiatives across Edinburgh, including Invisible Cities, a social enterprise that supports people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own city.
Find out more about Prosper Social Finance (external)
Invisible Cities (external)
Ada Ventures is a pre-seed and seed fund, funding extraordinary talent building breakthrough ideas for tackling global challenges, including Climate Equity, Healthy Ageing and Economic Empowerment. Ada adopts an inclusive approach to investment and seeks to fund diverse ventures that champion inclusion and equality.
The University has invested £500,000 in Ada's Fund II.
Ada Ventures (external)
Giant backs purpose-driven founders solving the world’s biggest challenges, from climate and health to inclusive capitalism. Led by former founders, Giant invests in companies that matter at Pre-Seed, Seed and Series B in Europe and the US.
The University has invested £500,000 with Giant Ventures.
Giant Ventures (external)
The Edinburgh Local Community Grants scheme helps the development of projects, community activities and sustainable local action through funding and collaboration. Since 2017, the University has provided more than £600,000 to over 200 projects and organisations across the Edinburgh City Region.
The aims of the Community Grants scheme include creating a positive social impact for people living in the City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian, Scottish Borders and/or Fife by contributing to one or more of these United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
We also want to develop positive relationships between the University and community organisations. If you run a community organisation and would like to find out more, visit the Edinburgh Local page.
Prosper Social Finance is the first student-run social investment fund in the UK; founded and run entirely by students at the University of Edinburgh.
Are you a budding social entrepreneur? Contact Edinburgh Innovations to get support for your social enterprise.
Learn more about how the University's Community Grant Scheme and its impact to date.