Innovation Facilitates Regional Growth
Lund University plays a significant role in stimulating economic growth in Skåne. Not only by providing high competence in terms of graduates and scientists, but also by translating the knowledge generated at the faculties into new products, services and modes of operation.
To facilitate the transition of scientific discoveries into actual innovations that can be marketed and managed by a company, Lund University (LU) has established a hub for innovation and commercialisation, LU Innovation.
LU Innovation has two sections: one a part of the public authority and the other a holding company, LU Holding AB. Together they function as one unit with a joint mission and joint management, but are responsible for different parts of the innovation process.
”Together, our bodies can support a business through the entire value-chain, from the initial idea to a company being investible by venture capital,” says Christine Widstrand, Vice President and Portfolio Manager of LU Holding AB.
Funding for Commercialisation Projects
Every year LU Innovation meets hundreds of researchers and receives around 120 innovative ideas. A great part of them are taken on and developed by teams comprising researchers, business developers and patent and legal advisors.
To identify and support new ideas in the early stages is fundamental to LU Innovation and the organisation has various ways in which it can help fund research-based commercialisation projects. Ideas that seem promising may for example get verification funding, a part of a Vinnova programme.
“In 2016, we also launched a Pre-Seed Program within Life Science, with the purpose of strengthening the entrepreneurial drive among scientists and stimulate commercialisation of their research. You may call it support for early proof-of-concept. The response has been very positive and we’ve received a high number of applications,” Christine Widstrand comments.
LU Holding, on the other hand, can invest money in promising ideas and pay for costs unrelated to the actual verification or validation.
“We invest in projects with significant international market potential and a unique concept that competitively solves a clear customer need. And we do it at an early stage when the risk is considerable,” says Christine.
Finding the Right People
LU Holding typically assists a company in legal matters and accounting, as well as active involvement in the form of board expertise.
”We usually become active board members of young companies and help them with experience, contacts and strategic decisions during the first years. When they attract external investments we exit our active engagement and sell when possible, to be able to invest in new startups,” says Christine Widstrand.
Approx. 50% of LU Holding’s portfolio of 45 companies is life science businesses. One example is Gedea Biotech AB that started in 2016, founded by scientists from three faculties at Lund University. Their basic scientific findings suggested that women suffering from vaginal fungal infections could be cured by a local treatment with a safe, natural and non-antibiotic product.
“For us, LU Holding offered vast experience with startups and a broad contact network. But foremost, they were able to understand the potential of our project and managed to connect the right people to it, completing the team with critical skills,” says Olov Sterner, Professor and Dean at the Faculty of Science and one of the founders of Gedea Biotech AB.
LU Innovation’s mission is to contribute to increased growth in Sweden by ensuring that knowledge and research from Lund University benefit society. The organisation provides support services to students and researchers with business ideas and research findings that can be converted into innovations. Since 1999, it has invested in over 80 new research companies, which together have generated over 3,000 man-years employment and close to SEK 900 million in tax revenue.