After the Digital Revolution, we are on the verge of a new inflection point: the deeptech era. A context that provides exciting opportunities in sectors such as AI & automation, biotech, energy, and engineering.
But although innovations in these sectors have the potential to transform the economy and society, their impact is sometimes hindered by the complexity, high risks, and costs associated with the development process.
This article explores how deeptech solutions promoters can use tools, frameworks and expert guidance in complementary areas to accelerate the lab-to-market journey. It gives an overview of some of the common challenges we see when working with researchers, universities, science and technology parks, entrepreneurs, start-up incubators, financial organisations and public institutions on the creation and scale-up of knowledge-intensive companies. It also provides insight into the solutions we have been applying for the past 15 years by working in multi-national research and innovation ecosystems.
Addressing Critical Challenges Through Tech Disruption
Knowledge-intensive initiatives are at the forefront of deeptech innovation ecosystem. The support and funding opportunities they can access are also gaining traction. Venture funding in European deeptech ventures quadrupled from 2016 to 2020 , and according to Atomico’s State of European Tech 2021, purpose-driven and deeptech innovation represented the fastest-growing funding segments, with startups raising nearly €20 billion in the first nine months of 2021.
This year, the European Innovation Council (EIC) opened funding opportunities worth €1.6 billion for innovators to scale up breakthrough technologies and create new markets. Over half a billion euro is earmarked for next generation technologies in strategic areas for Europe, including energy storage, quantum, semi-conductors, and food security.
But although deeptech innovation is seen as a driver of addressing critical societal challenges, it involves specific risks and challenges, including technical complexity, funding, regulation, access and maintaining talent, market acceptance, scalability, and intellectual property (IP).
This has a direct consequence on the way deeptech solutions are being developed. While a solution-centered approach has been the traditional way of looking at the R&I development, a newer concept that perfectly combines the business and innovation goals with societal needs has evolved: the impact-centered approach. At META Group, we apply this principle to any aspect of the innovation process.
Strategies to Support Validation, Development, and Growth of Innovation
To maximize the impact of European funding, the European Commission requires elaborated project plans incorporating detailed exploitation strategies to define how these projects results will be implemented and what impact will have on a long run. The necessity of implementing these activities apply however regardless of the funding source.
A research exploitation strategy is a plan for how to take the results of research and turn them into outputs that can be used or commercialized to generate economic or societal benefits.
This can mean a variety of activities, such as protecting intellectual property, licensing technology, spinning off companies to commercialize the research, or creating partnerships with industry to bring the research to market. This phase lays out the steps to identify the most promising areas for commercialization and to maximize the impact of research.
Non-technological bottlenecks, like the lack of knowledge of the market, financial issues, regulatory complexity, can prevent research results from making it to the end-users. The support services provided by META Group at various stages bridge the gap between research results and the market by setting the ground for achieving impact:
- Explore research exploitation possibilities;
- Set up roadmaps for the long-term sustainability of research results;
- Improve teams skills set;
- Assess Technology Readiness and Go-To-Market scale-up opportunities;
- Identify funding opportunities; improve funding applications and pitching skills;
- Develop tools, such as memorandum of understanding, protocols, implementation guidelines;
- Design and implement awareness campaigns around new technologies for public acceptance and public trust;
- Create synergies with other projects to increase the impact and reduce overlapping;
- Identify and involve early adopters;
- Outreach to multiple audiences.
These actions are particularly important in biotech solutions development, such as ECO2Fuel, an ambitious, innovative initiative that could transform the energy sector by introducing the first CO2 to clean fuel conversion system. The consortium is designing, validating and manufacturing the technology to produce economic and sustainable liquid e-fuels and chemicals.
The R&I advancements are only one side of the process that needs additional preparatory and post research stages. We are able to support this process with assistance in areas such as exploitation strategy design, value chain stakeholder analysis, development of the business and use models, IPR management and licensing.
Similar challenges are facing deeptech innovations in the health sector, where development, testing and validation cycles are longer and resource intensive. To address them, we work together with multiple stakeholders on cutting-edge solutions like OXiNEMS. The team behind OXiNEMS works on the development of nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) devices for the detection of biomagnetic fields. This new generation of multimodal systems will allow capturing brain activity and connectivity with high spatial and temporal resolution, with ground-breaking impact on clinical neuroscience.
Free Expert Support Through Horizon Results Booster
Thanks to a European Commission initiative, research organisations can benefit from free support services for the exploitation of research results through Horizon Results Booster. The programme aims at maximising the impact of research results stemming from projects funded by FP7, H2020 and Horizon Europe. The service delivery includes creating portfolios of project results, developing portfolio dissemination plans, assisting in improving exploitation strategies, developing business plans, facilitating Go-To-Market.
Within Horizon Results Booster, teams involve din the innovation process have the opportunity to connect with similar initiatives, co-create, and work together for the best results. One of them is EXCELLERAT, a European initiative that puts High Performance Computing (HPC) at the heart of data management, analytics, visualisation, simulation-driven design and co-design to support innovation in engineering.
The focus of EXCELLERAT is Exascale computing, the next major milestone in the development of supercomputers. It will give scientists a new tool for addressing some of the biggest challenges facing our world, from climate change to understanding cancer to designing new kinds of materials.
Enabling Untapped Regional Innovation Potential
Regions are seeking to strengthen their economic development through innovation. They design and implement dedicated strategies and policy instruments and facilitate cooperation through start-up incubators and accelerators.
Incubatore Creativo Istria in Slovenia is one of them: a newly born accelerator and the first initiative in the region, that we have supported with training programmes on how to transform ideas in viable businesses.
Similarly, in Izmir, Turkey, META Group is a partner of D-TECH4ENT (“Deep Technology Incubator for Entrepreneurs”), working with tech start-ups in the region and providing expertise on management, marketing and funding. D-TECH4ENT aims to enhance the commercialization of innovative products and processes by supporting early-stage, deep-technology entrepreneurs. In parallel, the İzmir Network and Innovation Centre (İzmir NIC) focuses on the renewable energy sector and ICT while improving the capacity of ecosystem actors in İzmir with training, consultancy, and networking.
Shaping the Innovation Campus in Luxembourg
Although EU ranks high in global scientific research, more efforts need to be made to accelerate knowledge transfer from labs to spin-offs or start-ups. Deeptech clusters that connect consumers, technology, industry can be part of the solution.
One example of co-creating such a support infrastructure is the future innovation campus of Luxembourg. It will host innovative companies working on new products and solutions together with the regional research ecosystem. In this ambitious project, META Group is undertaking a benchmarking exercise to analyse the best practices and provide a framework for building the campus.
These practices are easily replicable and contribute to the development of ground-breaking innovation. If you want to learn more about about how these solutions can support your knowledge to market journey, get in touch with the META Group experts.