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“We aim to double the number of business ideas”

New funding will increase the pace of commercialization

Published Feb 11, 2011

It will now be easier for researchers to turn their research ideas into business ideas. With new funding of SEK 20 million and a stronger organization, business coaches at KTH Innovation will attempt to double the number of innovations coming onto market.

Lisa Ericsson, Head of KTH Innovation, is increasing the pace of commercialization work at KTH. She has received new funding, a new network, new coaches and a new international organization as a starting point.

“We have a fair wind in our sails at the moment. We want to be able to increase both the quality and the scope of our support to the researchers. I aim to double the number of KTH innovations that reach the commercial market,” she says.

For some years now, Lisa Ericsson has been building up a qualified team of business coaches on her department. The team’s combined expertise is now broad enough to match all major areas of research at KTH.

In addition, last summer, brought new funds from the Department of Education for the university’s work with innovations. It is the first time the state has earmarked money for innovation development at universities.

The total amount of support, SEK 21 million over three years, also provides access to a new regional network. KTH will receive resources to operate a so-called Innovation Office which will collaborate with the University of Stockholm, Mälardalen University and Uppsala University.

“We can now offer researchers a much broader package than before. In three years we have grown from 3 to almost 8 employees, locally at KTH. If you also include our partners in the three above-mentioned universities, we are more than 20 people,” says Lisa Erickson.

More than 100 ideas each year

In the current situation, over one hundred business ideas come in to KTH Innovation annually. Many of them remain not much more than ideas, but last year the department managed to ‘approve’ 14 projects, i.e. helped pilot them out on to the commercial market.

And the ideas that fall by the wayside during the journey are not regarded as failures but as a learning experience for those involved, stresses Lisa Erickson.

Every business idea undergoes a number of examinations first: Which is the best way to further develop an idea? Can it be protected through patents and what does the market look like in this area of technological development? As a result of this examination process the idea can be further developed via KTH Innovation’s new partnership with Uppsala University and its research patent company.

“The experts from Uppsala belong to some of the nation’s leaders in patent strategy and the patenting of highly innovative technologies. Scientists from KTH will be able to gain access to this expertise under the same conditions as researchers from Uppsala,” says Lisa Erickson.

A warning sensor which warns when ice forms on road surfaces, the ethical analysis of images on the Internet, energy-efficient electric motors and efficient ethanol production can all be included on the list of the most recent successful projects from KTH Innovation.

“KTH is at the forefront of innovation. We are one of the country’s best universities and can also compete with successful U.S. universities as regards the number of patented innovations,” she says.

Better creative climate

Approximately 60 percent of business ideas come from researchers, the rest from the students. Among the researchers, four out of ten are professors.

“KTH is a huge source of ideas for us. But not all ideas arrive here. We hope that even more will be able to receive our support,” says Lisa Ericsson.

When KTH’s business partnership was re-organized in the autumn, KTH Innovation moved to Administration directly reporting to Eva Malmström Jonsson, Deputy President. A change that is welcomed by Lisa Erickson.

“We have had a closer connection to KTH’s management, this encourages the development of innovation support,” she says.

KTH Innovation has an open attitude to those who need help with a business idea and offers a free review of all projects that come in. It is part of KTH Innovation’s learning assignment which also benefits the creative environment, Lisa Erickson says.

“Those who get given ‘homework’ with regard to their ideas often come back with new projects of a higher quality and they reach even further, sometimes achieving their goal”.

Text: Christer Gummeson

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