Europeans are excited about deep tech, which they believe will give them an advantage over the rest of the world when it comes to innovation based on basic research. An important point is that Europe has some of the best universities and most talented people. However, how can a student’s academic skills be used in a business? Let’s get right in. In the words of Anna:
Universities are a hive of cutting-edge technological innovation
To lead the next wave of deep tech innovation, “we connect forces from startups to universities to make Europe a global leader!” Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, tweeted this week after her presentation at the Tech.eu Summit in Brussels. During the occasion, I noted that she wasn’t the only one who spoke highly about this subject.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Europeans have high aspirations for deep technology. Earlier this year, Alex and I discussed the deep tech boom in Europe and investor interest in it. However, my attention was aroused by the role that educational institutions are required to perform.
A guest essay by Riam Kanso on Tech.eu before the event said that “there is no question that the future of innovation in Europe will come from its world-leading institutions.”. Kanso is the creator of Conception X, a company that I had just recently heard about. As a UK-based NGO, the organisation focuses at transforming PhD scholars into venture scientists.
A simple but proven formula is Kanso’s, he said. “You’ve got a Ph.D. team focusing on cutting-edge research with major applications in the real world. Researchers believe their work has the potential to uncover cures for previously incurable illnesses, to create carbon-neutral cities, or to address the challenges of the more automated future. As part of a comprehensive entrepreneurship training programme, we provide access to pro bono legal assistance, financing options and professional contacts to help them transform their study into a successful deep technology business.”
Creating spinoffs or spinouts isn’t a new phenomenon for institutions (we will use the terms interchangeably here.) Intellectual property produced during their studies or research is a common basis for many of the businesses started by MIT graduates, for example.
Intellectual property, on the other hand, may be a sticky subject in Europe. It is possible that the “potential for substantial innovation fermenting throughout European research laboratories” is largely untapped as a result of inconsistent and, at times, “stifling” IP ownership restrictions that make spinout enterprises difficult to invest in and difficult to expand.
European universities and venture capital organisations are increasingly making efforts to ensure that the most promising seedlings become profitable businesses.
Pay attention to the space between things
Despite the difficulties, venture capitalists seeking new ideas believe that spinouts are well worth their time. Many of the early-stage startups that we invest in are highly technical; as a VC with a Ph.D., Simon King believes that universities are essential to the success of these enterprises.
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