Technology patents and spin-offs coming out of university research have a significant impact on regional and social development. In recognizing the importance of academic spin-offs, the field of science and entrepreneurship got increasing attention and support in recent years.
In Europe, the ETH Zurich with 30 spin-offs in 2019 and the University of Cambridge with 258 granted patents, 127 commercial licences and over 25 million pounds in funding and investment in spin-offs in 2018 are leading in this area. Austria’s spin-off figures have not yet reached the same level with 23 spin-offs out of all 22 universities in 2016. According to the Austrian Startup Monitor: In 2019 out of the total amount of Austrian startups, 14% were academic spin-offs.
Studies show that one major success factor for spin-offs out of universities is the entrepreneurial knowledge of the founder. Scientists are experts in their field of research, but most times have insufficient market knowledge to develop a proficient roadmap until market entry.
In 2019, the Innovator’s Road Programme kicked off, based on the overall aim to support scientists in becoming successful entrepreneurs. Originally funded by the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft, the programme was developed and implemented by New Venture Scouting and I.E.C.T. – Hermann Hauser. The Innovator’s Road Programme is intended to expand the instruments in the direction of an entrepreneurial skillset in science. The programme addresses the particularities of start-ups from the academic environment and follows the life cycle of a start-up. This means that tailor-made contents support the development of the founder and start-up idea at the proper time given.
Within a duration of ten months the founders are mentored and trained according to a proven method from the Cambridge cluster, which was further developed and adapted by the programme partners. A range of training sessions build the framework of the programme, allowing to zoom out regularly and see the big picture of the whole start-up journey. Thirty hours of individual mentoring sessions with a dedicated team of mentors provide a solid foundation in order to work with the founders on their challenges. Through the vast network of the programme partners the founders gain access to experts, investors and corporates across the UK-DACH region and have the possibility to establish resourceful relationships. Building on the advantages of a strong peer-to-peer connection diverse initiatives take place.
The target group
The Innovator’s Road is developed for (University) spin-offs, mainly from the area of STEM, tackling the pearls and pitfalls of commercializing research-based projects. It is about supporting entrepreneurs to successfully master the transition from prototype to an early product or service with a sustainable business model. The maturity level of the projects evolves around the TRL/cTRL 3-5. The founders / entrepreneurs do not necessarily need to have a team, or a formally founded company.