Uppsala University Innovation Office works directly with researchers inside the institution to connect them with business leaders in the effort to develop new companies from their research. Much of the work that they do would be familiar to those of us in the US as the work of the technology transfer office. Although one major difference with universities in Sweden is that the IP created by the faculty/researchers is not owned by the University… Ownership is retained by the PI! For those familiar with the US university model…. this is very different from what we have in the US models. As a result many of the faculty are quite motivated to explore opportunities, to commercialize new technologies into companies, and work through the Innovation Office as well as Innovation Centre to build and scale their ideas for specific markets and businesses. The Uppsala University Innovation Office also has a project called AIM Day, which is where they send out a questionnaire to companies about challenges/problems that they’re facing and need assistance addressing. Their feedback is then taken and shared with faculty within the university and a matchmaking event around solutions occurs to where the faculty then travel (funded by the university) to meet with the companies and work on potential solutions. The companies then fund the research through the University once a path forward has been identified. This project has been done both in Sweden as well as outside of the country in places such as Brazil. This approach to engaging the private sector and leveraging the research faculty within the university is creative and certainly worth discussing in the US/Triangle to catalyze even more academic/industry engagement.
The Uppsala Innovation Center does amazing work as well… with only eight staff on hand they are assisting 100 companies through various phases of development from initial ideation to scalability and business plan development as well as product launch and funding from investors. Their funding sources come from both the public and private sectors. For every krona of investment they have returned 11!
Another interesting takeaway is the Uppsala Holding Company within the university (financially, it is separate and apart from the institution itself as a foundation). Just last year they invested in 52 companies … from which these companies have received 340 million krona of follow-on invest. The Holding Company resources are all funds that were originally seeded by the national government, but their efforts now generate back to the university. Variations of this model are something that we are seeing within our home institutions in North Carolina and clearly should continue to grow in a thoughtful way. As the organizatoin charged with serving our founding institutions (Duke University, NC State, UNC Chapel Hill), The Research Triangle Park could also act as an independent partner organization to assist in gathering resources from across the Triangle for investment opportunities that cross multiple institutions.