Although academic researchers have the knowledge and skills to create potentially life-changing products for patients, they often face unique challenges compared to other founders. Lengthy and expensive research and development costs often make VCs reluctant to invest. Although spin-off founders are experts in their field, they often lack the necessary skills to build a successful startup, especially in sales and corporate leadership. After all, regulations and certifications often make it difficult to deliver solutions to the patients who need them most.
According to a recent Report by Techleap.nlThe Netherlands in particular is lagging behind other European countries when it comes to deep tech startups. Although they have long lifespans (about 80% of all academic spin-offs formed in the Netherlands are still active), less than half grow beyond more than 10 employees.
However, the metropolitan area groningen (including over 235,000 residents and nearly 90,000 students) has developed its own formula, bringing together its universities, businesses and local government policies to create a more effective incubator for academic spin-offs like CC diagnosis, PureIMSAnd Organ Assist (acquired from XVIVO). This in turn has helped make Groningen is the fastest growing region in the Netherlands in terms of employment growth.
The Groningen startup ecosystem is now worth 3.6 billion euros and has been growing strongly since 2019 (Techleap Startup & Scaleup Dashboard 2023). Groningen is one of the top innovative regions in Europe (European Commission Regional Innovation Scoreboard) and one of the leading technology and health centers in Europe.
This year, Stephanie Klein Nagelvoort-Schuit, Vice President of the University Hospital Groningen, took part in an expert panel at the TNW conference in Amsterdam How to turn university spin-offs into commercial success. As the leader of new digitization initiatives at UMCG, she shared her unique perspective on some of the challenges these founders face and offered advice on developing successful go-to-market strategies.
TNW caught up with Klein Nagelvoort-Schuit after the session to learn more about how Groningen has built an ecosystem that stimulates academic spin-offs.