Goal: Improve access to capital for new and expanding high-tech enterprises.
The success of companies depends on adequate access to different types of capital during various stages of growth. Entrepreneurs rely on debt and equity financing to start and grow their businesses. These resources are used by entrepreneurial ventures to support fundamental business functions such as marketing, manufacturing, and sales as well as innovation-boosting research and development and commercialization activities. Access to capital here encompasses risk capital used to fund innovation in early-stage companies, including private investment funds, public sector investment programs, and state R&D tax credits.
Virginia’s venture capital investment surged in 2016, continuing an upward trend that started in 2012. The number of deals was stable; the dramatic increase in venture funding was largely associated with one investment. Private angel investment decreased in 2015. Investments by public sector programs, which included CIT’s Growth Acceleration Program (GAP) Funds, the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund (CRCF), and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (Tobacco Commission), also decreased in aggregate; in contrast, funding available for the CRCF program increased in FY2017. In late FY2017, the Virginia Research Investment Fund (VRIF) issued its first Request for Proposals. Additionally, the Tobacco Commission’s R&D grant program reinstated activity this fiscal year; a solicitation was issued in late FY2017, with a proposal deadline of early FY2018. Private sector leverage is also an important consideration. When funds leveraged from other sources are included, the total investment impact of GAP was $92.3 million in FY2016. R&D tax credits, which include the R&D expenses tax credit and the qualified equity and subordinated debt investments tax credit remained the same from taxable year (TY) 2014 to TY2015.
Why is access to capital important?
Access to a variety of sources of capital is important for business startup, expansion and investments in research and development, and commercialization of research. Many promising entrepreneurial ventures fail because of the difficulty of securing funding to cover negative cash flow during an early stage. Private investment provides the largest source of funding for innovative companies. The public sector plays a facilitating role by offering tax credits and providing funding to innovative companies to support applied research and commercialization activities in high-risk areas and leverage additional private investment.
How has Virginia performed over the last five years?
Angel investment typically provides seed capital for the earliest stage of business startup activity. Angel investment in Virginia increased from an estimated $14-20 million in 2011 to a peak of $18-35 million in 2014. In 2015, angel investment dropped to $10-20 million. The number of deals financed follows a similar path. There were an estimated 50 to 100 angel investments in 2011, increasing to 100-200 in 2013 and 2014. The number of deals decreased to 70-140 in 2015. Nationally, angel investment has been relatively flat over the last three years. Although angel investment increased slightly from $24.1 billion in 2014 to $24.6 billion in 2015, the number of angel investment deals decreased from 73,400 to 71,110. Virginia attracts a relatively small amount of national angel investment, with approximately 0.06% of national angel investment and 0.15% of angel investment deals in 2015.
Venture capital investment is an important source of capital for more established early- and later-stage startups that need funding to accelerate growth. Venture capital has increased markedly in each of the last four years, surging from $527.0 in 2012 to $2.143 billion in 2016. A significant cause of the 2016 increase from 2015’s $1.017 billion was a $1.2 billion venture deal for Arlington-based telecommunications firm OneWeb. Venture capital investment has expanded for both seed- and early-stage investments and expansion and later stage investments. The former grew from $49 million in 2012 to $205 million in 2016. Expansion and later stage investments leapt from $478 million to $1.937 billion over the same period. In contrast, the number of venture capital deals has decreased slightly. here were 99 venture deals in 2012 and 80 in 2016. Seed- and early-stage venture deals decreased over the 2011-2015 period from 54 to 41, while expansion- and later-stage deals decreased from 45 to 39.
Venture capital spending as a percent of 2016 state GDP has also increased. Virginia ranked 4th among U.S. states in venture capital spending as a percentage of state GDP (0.43%) in 2016. This rate was higher than the national average of 0.32%. Virginia's rate was lower than two benchmark states: California (1.21%) Massachusetts (1.20%), but higher than North Carolina (0.12%), Maryland (0.08%), Texas (0.08%), and Pennsylvania (0.08%). California was the national leader.
As a result of the growth of the Internet and social networking in recent years, several new financial technology tools have arisen that offer additional funding options for entrepreneurs. Crowdfunding provides startup funds through monetary contributions provided by numerous investors over the Internet in return for initial batches of the startup product or firm equity. Peer-to-peer electronic platform business lenders take advantage of big data processing capabilities to rapidly assess firm credit risks and serve as a broker for small loans. These new financial technologies will likely provide new avenues for entrepreneurial funding in the future as government restrictions are eased.
Public Sector Investment
The goal of public sector investment is to stimulate private investment. Diversifying the sources and expanding the pool of private seed and venture capital for entrepreneurs in the Commonwealth generates more innovative startups and creates jobs.
The Commonwealth of Virginia promotes innovation and entrepreneurship through various incentive programs. The CIT GAP Funds, the CRCF, and the Tobacco Commission’s R&D Grants are among the most important programs.
CIT GAP Funds provide seed- and early-stage near-equity and equity investments in Virginia-based technology, life science, and clean technology firms that exhibit a high potential for achieving rapid growth, generating significant economic returns, and leveraging private investment. Over the past five years the program has seen a significant increase in leveraged dollars. In FY2012, $3.69 million was invested in 27 GAP projects, which attracted additional private funding of $25.25 million. In FY2016, CIT invested in $2.3 million in 24 projects, which leveraged $92.3 million in additional funding.
The CRCF promotes science- and technology-based research, development, commercialization, and company formation and growth. The Fund, which was initiated in 2011, makes awards to projects that align with sectors in the Commonwealth Research and Technology Strategic Roadmap and works in tandem with other federal and state programs to leverage matching funds. A significant portion of the funded activity occurs in partnership with Virginia universities. Between FY2013 and FY2017, 221 awards have been announced. In FY2013, $3.0 million was awarded for 43 projects, in FY2017, 40 projects received $2.7 million in funding.
The Virginia Research Investment Fund was established in the 2016 General Assembly Session; the General Assembly appropriated $12 million from the general fund and authorized an additional $29 million in bond funds for the VRIF. In May 2017, The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) issued the VRIF’s first Request for Proposals. Award announcements are planned for late CY2017 and may include approximately $4 million from the general fund and an unspecified amount of bond funding.
The Virginia Tobacco Commission established the $100 million R&D fund in 2009 to provide grant funding to public and non-profit organizations and educational institutions in support of conducting research and development and commercializing technology. The funded projects are selected to maximize the economic development impact on the 41-locality tobacco-dependent regions in Southern and Southwest Virginia. FY2012 saw the largest project outlays with $13.5 million for 7 projects. Project awards and funding totals dropped in 2012 but recovered to similar levels in FY2013 and FY2014. The program was put on hold in FY2016 while new guidelines for awards were developed, and thus no awards were made in FY2016. The program resumed in late FY2017.
R&D Tax Credits
The Commonwealth of Virginia offers three R&D tax credit/exemption programs to eligible firms and private investors. The Research and Development Expenses Tax Credit, established in 2011, provides a refundable individual and corporate income tax credit for qualified R&D expenses. The amount available for this program was recently boosted from $5 million to $6 million in TY2014. The Qualified Equity and Subordinated Debt Investments Tax Credit offers angel investors a 50% tax credit for pre-qualified small business ventures involved in technology fields. The cap has been adjusted from year to year within a range of $3-5 million. In 2016, this annual cap was raised to $7 million. The state also offers individual and corporate income tax subtractions for long-term capital gains attributable to qualified investments in early stage technology, biotechnology, and energy startups. In addition, the state established a new tax credit program in 2016. Called the Major R&D Expense Credit, it is targeted for companies that spend more than $5 million per year on research. The annual cap for this credit is $20 million.
The Virginia Research and Development Expenses Tax Credit saw increases in approved applications and tax credit amounts from TY2011 to TY2015. In TY2011, 64 applications were approved for a total amount of $2.1 million. Approved applications increased to 268 in TY 2015. The total approved amount was $6.0 million, which was the same level as the year before and the maximum amount allowed by the program.
Qualified Equity and Subordinated Debt Investment Tax Credit use has fluctuated from year to year, in part because of changing program caps. In TY2011, 200 applications were approved for an amount that totaled that year’s cap of $3 million. In TY2013, 140 applications were approved for $4.5 million, the program cap for that year. TY2014 and TY2015 saw 127 and 162 applications respectively and reached each year’s program cap of $5.0 million.
In TY2011, 13 corporate investors claimed $10.0 million in deductions based on the capital gains tax exemption for technology businesses, with a general fund impact of $8,732. In TY2012, 30 corporate investors claimed $172.3 million in deductions for a general fund impact of $27,379. The number of corporate claims and deductions fell to 17 and $16.0 million in TY2013, while the general fund impact increased to $150,000. The large fluctuations observed in general fund impact over time occurs because of differences in the applicant pool, volatility in the corporate income tax deduction liability, and differences in the extent to which applicants are able to utilize the subtraction to reduce their tax liability. Individuals could also claim this deduction but those data are not yet available. It should also be noted that because the deduction is for any long-term capital gains resulting from a qualified investment and may be claimed in the future, the total general fund impact is unknown and may be higher than the reported tax year General Fund impacts.
What are the implications?
Capital investment is a key input in building innovative companies. Early-stage companies, academia and research institutes use seed investment to transform applied research into commercial products and services, while later-stage companies use expansion capital to boost growth. Private investment is a critical catalyst for innovative companies and entrepreneurs and accounts for most of the funds invested in new ventures. Public sector investment is smaller but is made in innovative companies that stimulate additional private investment and add value to the state economy. In recent years, the Commonwealth has created additional R&D investment tax credits and deductions to expand capital access. In the future, business startups may be able to more fully utilize additional private investment channels though new financial technology tools such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer business lending.
Data Sources and Definitions:
Each IEMS indicator reports data available as of June 30, 2017 and provides a description of trends for five years of historical data when available.
Angel Investment: Seed and Start-up Equity Capital Market in the Commonwealth of Virginia (2011-2015): Jeffery Sohl, University of New Hampshire.
Angel investment deals and values are estimated based on survey data.
Venture Capital data is from PricewaterhouseCoopers/National Venture Capital Association MoneyTree™ Report: Thomson Reuters:
PricewaterhouseCoopers changed its source of venture capital data in 2016. Previous estimates are not comparable to current ones. Available every year in January.
Nominal Gross Domestic Product by State data is from the Bureau of Economic Analysis: http://www.bea.gov/regional/index.htm. Available in June.
GAP Funds. Data are from the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT)
CRCF Funds: Data are from the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) and the CRCF 2016 Annual Report:
Tobacco Commission R&D Grant Awards: Data from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. Counties and cities within the Tobacco Commission funding region are shown at: http://www.tic.virginia.gov/tobmapupdated.shtml. Program guidelines target entities that “engage in applied research that is post proof-of-concept; invent and/or improve products, processes, or services that or whose value is substantially increased in the region; pursue commercialization within 36 months; and conduct research and development in: energy, biomedical and health care, information technology, chemical and materials, environment.”
R&D Tax Credits: Data from the Virginia Department of Taxation. The state fiscal year (FY) begins July 1 and ends on June 30. The taxable year (TY) is the 12-month period used by individuals or businesses for income tax reporting purposes. The tax year is the calendar year for most individuals and businesses.