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Business and Innovation News

Thursday, 12 April 2018

The spinoff adventure: sharing knowledge and experiences

by Rachel Spencer

Last week ICN2 Business Development Officer Nadia Pons gave a talk outlining the institute’s spinoff creation policy and encouraged in-house researchers to get involved in entrepreneurial projects. The session was then opened to the whole of the university campus for a presentation by Barcelona Activa to promote its 2018 pre-accelerator programme for business creation.

The session held last week began with several ICN2 researchers presenting their experiences in the innovation and technology transfer process, with some success stories and others that can be better described as “useful trips on the learning curve”. Talking in particular relation to experiences in spinoff creation, all agreed that, although a lot of hard work, valuable lessons were learned.

ICN2 Business Development Officer Nadia Pons then outlined the institute’s spinoff policy, the full version of which can be found here (accessible by ICN2 members only via the Intranet). In an engaging talk, Nadia explains how even in its very definition, the spinoff has been misconstrued for a long time as a smaller subsidiary version of a full-size, working company. In reality, the most significant difference is not their size, but rather their mission: where a large company exists to execute and ensure constant growth, a spinoff is a temporary organisation whose main goal is to explore in search of a profitable, scalable business model. Equally, where a business professional's role is to drive up the profit margin at all costs, the entrepreneur’s calling is to dream up new products, or new configurations of the same resources that add value or are more in sync with contemporary needs.

And with this the imagination of those present was captured since, according to this definition, the mission of a spinoff is perhaps surprising well-aligned with the mission of many researchers.

In the second part of the session, open to the whole of the UAB campus, Nicolas Escartín of Barcelona Activa presented this organisation’s pre-accelerator programme to drive technology-based entrepreneurial projects: ten intensive weeks of workshops, mentoring and networking to teach candidates all they need to know about the entrepreneurial process and work on their business model and skills, all with the chance of winning €12,000 at the end-of-course “Demoday”. Programme alumni Alejandro Martí, entrepreneur and researcher at the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre also spoke at the event, sharing his experiences of the programme and how he made the jump from research to business.

Present at the event was ICN2 group leader Dr. Mónica Lira-Cantú, for whom such initiatives are a "win-win": "This programme offers an excellent platform for exploring whether our applied research has potential in an industrial setting – whether our results, if developed correctly, could be transformed into a product of commercial interest". 

Also at the event was ICN2 laboratory engineer Dr. Markos Paradinas, who enthused that having the chance to hear first-hand from colleagues already on "the spinoff adventure" really brings the topic to life, and ICN2 technician Dr. Marta Sanmartí, who reflected on the importance of attending these kinds of events which, although beyond the purely scientific, are hugely complementary to the pursuit of science and can have direct repercussions on what goes on both inside and outside the lab.