Europe’s deep tech depends on university spinouts – TechCrunch

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Deep tech has become a hot topic in Europe, with hopes that the region can have an edge over the rest of the world for innovations rooted in basic research. One of the main arguments: European countries have great universities and talent. But how can academic talent be implemented in startups? Let’s dive in. — ann

Universities, a deep tech cauldron

“From start-ups to universities, we are joining forces to make Europe a global leader in the new wave of deep tech innovation!” European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel tweeted Earlier this week after her presentation at the summit in Brussels. As I noticed when I attended the event, she was far from the only one enthusiastically addressing this topic.

That deep tech is raising high hopes in Europe came as no surprise. Alex and I have already written about it Europe’s deep tech boom and investor interest in it earlier this year. But the role that educational institutions are supposed to play has piqued my interest.

“There is no doubt that the future of innovation in Europe will come from its world-leading universities,” wrote Riam Kanso in a guest post before the event. Kanso is the founder of Idea Xwhich I accidentally heard about for the first time earlier this month. The UK-based non-profit organization aims to provide Ph.D. researchers to risk scientists.

“It’s a simple yet time-tested recipe,” Kanso said. “You have a Ph.D. Team working on cutting-edge research with important real-world applications. They know their innovation could help discover effective treatments for today’s incurable diseases, power carbon-negative cities, or address the future of automation. Through a combination of entrepreneurship training, access to free legal advice, funding opportunities and expert connections, we help them figure out how to transform their research into a viable deep tech startup.”

It is nothing new that universities are more or less willing to create spin-offs or spin-outs (we will use the terms interchangeably here). MIT, for example, is famous for counting many entrepreneurs among its alumni, and not a few of these ventures are based on intellectual property developed during their studies or research.

But in Europe, intellectual property can be a sensitive issue. The “potential for meaningful innovations emerging in Europe’s research labs,” said Kanso, “due to differences – and sometimes – remain largely untapped suffocating — IP ownership rules that can make spinout companies uninvestable and difficult to scale.”

However, both European universities and venture capital firms are increasingly striving to turn the most promising seeds into successful companies.

Watch out for the gap

Despite the hurdles, VCs looking for innovation know that spinouts are well worth their attention. “As investors in early stage companies, many of which are deeply technical in nature, we look to universities as the foundation for the companies we invest in,” said Simon King, himself a VC with a Ph.D.

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