EIC Pathfinder Bootcamp: From Lab to Market
Bringing your research to the next level and creating a valid solution can be a tough nut to crack. With the EIC Pathfinder Bootcamp the European Innovation Council offered 16 Pathfinder and Transition beneficiaries the tools and guidance they need to turn their research into a viable product and bring it to the market.
The EIC Pathfinder Bootcamp, which took place from 16-18 February with a final presentation on 16 March, was dedicated to equipping the Pathfinder and Transition projects with fundamental and advanced business tools. After a 3-day course in February, with various speakers and trainers, a one-month time frame was given to the beneficiaries to prepare a pitch for their ideas.
Ana Cudero representing Amapola, a project focusing on the development of aluminum sulfur batteries, mentioned that “when you go to events with many researchers, you come to the conclusion that most of us are dealing with the same problems. Events like the EIC Pathfinder Bootcamp help us to understand that there are a lot of people out there with the same issues”. Maria Luisa Di Muzio, from the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies of the Italian National Research Council, working on the exploitation activities of the IM-TWIN project. It is an innovative AI-tool that helps decode the affective state of young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), shared that “we are very interested in seizing all the opportunities that emerge to improve the exploitation activities of the project and to guide the process of transferring research results to the market. That’s why we very much appreciated this initiative with which the EIC shows its commitment to take the field with concrete and high-level tools. We believe it is important to participate with an active contribution in this technological transfer process that has become a strategic priority for Europe.”
On the other side, Sander Dorenbos, the CEO of Single Quantum, shared his story from research to business during the EIC Pathfinder Bootcamp, mentioning that “I did my PhD on the development of these sensitive light detectors and already during my studies people were interested in buying these detectors; and at the end there were so many people asking me to start a company and so I did”. At the same time, he applauded the great spirit and added that “it’s great to see what kind of ideas are in the EIC Community and of course I was happy to share my experience.”
Ana, as a more experienced person in the business field, mentioned “there are two difficulties for this step to the actual market. First are interest, which is not the same between industry and researchers. When a researcher is interested in a project, they are interested in the scientific breakthrough and results. On the other hand, the industry is interested in business and making money. Then if you think researchers want to start a business, the problem is that they don’t know how to get through with it. For them everything is interesting and has potential to be something else. The difficulty is to make them understand that you don’t need something that works very well, you need a market and someone willing to buy your product.”
Maria Luisa concurred and added that “the step from the laboratory to business is a life choice that is often perceived in conflict with the choice of being a researcher. Making the leap is not an easy thing itself: it requires highly specialized skills and competences (marketing, business strategy, etc.) that are not commonly part of the toolbox of a researcher. A widespread culture and knowledge of what it means doing business is missing. We are fully aware there is the need of a new kind of sensibility and competences to build the new mindset the EIC is fostering.”
The valuable advice that Sander shared with us was regarding the importance of your team, noting that “you must work together, and you should get on with them; then everything else comes along”.
The importance of business orientation
Patricia Grigoleit, a medical doctor by training and one of the EIC coaches who covered the financing strategy and pitching training mentioned that it’s her intention to "to bring all the experience I have developed during my professional life to the support of young entrepreneurs.” Nacho Gallardo, a manager in a consultancy and teacher at business schools said “I’ve been an entrepreneur myself and I created few companies. This kind of programmes are really helpful. Having someone with a different approach explaining some of the key points and their experiences really open new possibilities and ways of thinking. Participating in the EIC Pathfinder Bootcamp was a way of “returning these learnings to a new generation, it's a pleasure to do so.” Roberto Verganti, a professor at the Stockholm School of Economics shared that “as a member of the Board at EIC, I was invited to provide a speech at the EIC Pathfinder Bootcamp, because on the one hand it was important to understand what is the EIC and why it is important for acceleration of companies, especially in Pathfinder, and on the other hand because Innovation Management is one of my subjects of work.”
The coaches didn't finish before sharing some valuable tips and tricks. Roberto’s main advice to the Pathfinder beneficiaries was that “There are two ways of transforming a technology into a business. The first one is what I call of technological substitution: you’re addressing an existing problem, but you’re able to provide a better solution. The second one is to apply a technology to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, to reframe the way things are solved.” Nacho mentioned that “the driver of a company is the market, not the product. Being entrepreneur is not only developing a product, but also to create a team”. Patricia finally shared that “I think most important is that they memorise the basic structure of a good pitch and really adapt the pitch each and every time for the specific audience they are pitching to.”
The EIC regularly organizes events for Pathfinder and Transition beneficiaries. In April and May 2021, the EIC Innovation Training Workshop will be back with two new workshops with more to follow in the future. To explore other opportunities, keep an eye on our events page.