Despite an innovative business idea, the path to independence isn’t always easy. During the beginning stage of a startup, the main focus lies on the issue of financing as well as on searching for suitable spaces for realizing this idea. The rental prices for office and laboratory spaces then turn out to be costly affairs on the free market, which makes it hard for young entrepreneurs to gain a foothold.
On April 23, 2015, the opening event of the Entrepreneurship Talks for the summer semester 2015 took place. Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Stork, multiple founder of KIT spin-offs, collegial leader of the Institute for Information Processing Technologies (ITIV), and director of the area of embedded systems and sensor engineering at the Research Center for Information Technology was invited as a guest. He talked about his professional career, which impressively combines science and entrepreneurship.
Prof. Stork already began to deal with entrepreneurial thought early on alongside to his pure research activities. His motivation in doing so was his curiosity regarding whether there was a possibility to realize his research results and whether there were already companies on the market that could manufacture products from them. The question about realization or even utilization of research results on the market was not self-evident at the time. It was a novelty and wasn’t viewed very positively. Consequently, Prof. Stork had to initially pursue his project relatively unnoticed.
The 300MICRONS GmbH KIT Spinoff Company Develops and Produces Miniaturized 3D Cell Culture Systems.
For nearly twenty years, Professor Dr. Eric Gottwald has conducted research at the KIT to find out how cells can be cultured in three dimensions. Cell culture experiments are important especially in biological and pharmaceutical research and in biotechnology.
Unlike 2D culture vessels, such as the flat Petri dishes, 3D culture systems guarantee a more organotypical growth of cells. As a consequence, results can be transferred more effectively to the human organism. The technology of manufacturing these systems is based on work of the co-founders Dr. Stefan Giselbrecht and Dr. Roman Truckenmüller, two former KIT staff members.
The idea to found a company was hedged by the team well over fifteen years ago. “However, at that time, there was demonstrably no market whatsoever. We were pioneers in our technology,” explains biologist Gottwald. Thus, the team first used a patented manufacturing technique to make a product for research purposes of their own. However, for a couple of years the trend in fundamental research and in industrial use has been in favor of 3D culture systems. In 2014, the three scientists therefore made another attempt at setting up a company. The young company, 300MICRONS, initially employed machines developed in house and a lot of manual work. In this way, 300MICRONS was able to generate its first revenue even before the official establishment of the company. Continue reading
For some years now, increasingly more startups in the life sciences sector emerge at the KIT, such as Amcure, Incella, Acquifer, Corvolution, or recently 300Microns. In this area there are highly exciting projects that, through their immediate international focus, have larger growth opportunities than a classic startup but are much more complex and thus also more labor intensive in the design phase.
While a technical or IT-based startup is mainly oriented on the market, a successful life sciences startup must also always act in the scientific field. Only those which are present at conferences and verifiably document results that were generated with the startup technology in scientific publications are perceived in the academic market, which is often the entry market.
The scientific founders therefore often remain in the academic field rather than transferring into the management of the startup company completely, which is otherwise usual. As co-founders, they assist in the advisory panel, the so-called Advisory Board, with product development, shape the corporate strategy, and support the acquisition of customers through their academic network.
The financing of life science startups is also a particular challenge. When laboratory tests for product development or manufacturing are required, the young company is going to incur high costs. Here, the KIT can help by providing for the initial phase of the founding with fully equipped laboratory and office spaces in the KIT’s own high-tech incubator for moderate rental fees.
Last but not least, life science founders need a lot of stamina. Economic success arises much later for them due to the long phases of product development and approval, particularly in the clinical field. In comparison, non-technology-based startups can offer a different product or service on the market after a short startup phase.
Are you currently working on a technology from which a business idea can be developed? Are you toying with the idea of founding a company? Do you need advice on founding? Then use the offers of the KIT Founders Forge and make an appointment with the consultant team of the KIT Innovation Management – we support you in your startup projects.