Several IQS’s spin off representatives gathered for a roundtable discussion with the title “From Lab to Market: Building Value-Added Companies”. The members of the roundtable included Eduard Diviu (Sagetis Biotech), Robert Teixidó (Tractivus), Kiko Ripoll (Sailing Technologies), and Sergi Pallarès (Capital Cell). They all represent a scientific and technical profile and have brought new technologies to market in the form of a new company. The conversation was hosted by Oriol Pascual from Tech Factory.
During the session, the participants covered numerous issues related to knowledge transfer and commercialization of know-how originated at research groups. Debated issues included: technology push versus market pull, difficulties encountered when bringing a new technology to the market, the relevance of patents, and access to financing.
Contrary to what one might think, rather than a technology in search for a need, the spin offs present at the roundtable made clear that in most cases the starting point for them was a market need for which a certain technology had to be developed. Like in the case of Sailing Technologies where a sailing team required the development of an adhesive that could work under the adverse conditions of a transoceanic trip. In some other cases, it has been a parallel process in which technology development has been complemented with the search for market applications. This is the case of Tractivus in which antibacterial materials developed at the lab turned out to be a good match with the application of stents.
Regardless, all participants agreed that it is of utmost relevance to adequately select research projects in the early phases in order to increase the potential of bringing results successfully to the market. Skilled screening and selection of research projects is crucial for spin off generation.
“It is relatively easy to develop a technology, what is really difficult is to sell that technology”. That is how members of the roundtable expressed what it is perceived to be the greatest difficulty in science-based entrepreneurial projects. Consequently, it is appropriate to develop multidisciplinary teams combining science/technology, with business management and marketing profiles.
Regarding the relevance of patenting, we noticed that answers vary depending on the sector in which the spin off belongs. Eduard Dividu from Sagetis Biotech told us that for bio, patents are a clear entry barrier and need when searching for financing. However, Sergi Pallares mentioned that in industrial sectors, the real entry barrier is market penetration and size of the client portfolio. In fact, several participants explained that patenting might hinder company’s growth rather than support it, due to maintenance costs.
Financing scientific and technical projects during the initial phases (pre-seed and seed) is relatively easy since several public and private instruments for these phases are available. However, it seems that access to capital in the following phases is more difficult, especially in bio. The reason is the limited number of actors in Spain for these phases (capital risk and VCs). Consequently, spin offs from the bio sector in search for capital beyond the initial phases, do it outside Spain. Capital Cell presented crowdfunding as a model that not only provides financing, but also brings feedback to the team.
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