“It is also our job to assist scientists and entrepreneurs in transforming their innovative ideas into successful products and services”
In March, we selected a number of new start-up businesses for the imec.istart entrepreneurs program. Through this program – which has been in place since 2011 – we support researchers, young business people and start-ups in their efforts to bring their ideas to the marketplace. The support itself consists of financial aid (50,000 euro), professional coaching and a whole range of facilities tailored for businesses just starting out. The imec.istart program usually provides guidance for these companies over a 12 to 18-month period, depending on the maturity of the technology, the experience of the start-up team and the specific market. During this period, these fledging entrepreneurs also have access to the imec ecosystem of attractive business partners and potential investors.
Our entrepreneurs program helps guide start-ups in five different areas: (1) Logistics & Mobility; (2) Health; (3) Media, Telecom & Entertainment; (4) (Aero)Space and (5) FinTech, InsurTech & CyberSecurity, which were added to the program recently. Among the new ventures that we assist, there are a number of outstanding businesses that we wouldn’t necessarily associate immediately with ‘the digital revolution’.
One of these start-ups is Agrin. Agrin produces software for dairy farmers that makes it easier for them to keep a close eye on their milk production, stock management, breeding strategies and so on. The unique feature with Agrin is that users are able to store and update a whole range of different types of data on a single platform. This means that the focus is not just on one aspect of the dairy farming business, as it is with other existing software.
Then there’s Ratsapp, a company that aims to improve and digitize the business of pest control. Improvements are needed in pest control, because we are currently struggling to overcome growing resistance against frequently used control products. Another reason why we need improvements is because the regulations governing the use of pest control products are becoming increasingly stringent. For that reason, Ratsapp has developed an innovative and environmentally friendly system for catching vermin, the details of which the company does not wish to reveal for the time being. And, as you would expect, there is also a digital aspect involved with Ratsapp: IoT technology is used to record the animals caught in a central database, enabling pest controllers to take more targeted action. Both of these start-ups are fine examples of how a digital approach can deliver genuine innovation across all sectors.
Of course there are also young entrepreneurs and researchers at imec itself who have brilliant ideas. We often assist these outstanding individuals in setting up a spin-off using imec technology. One example is EYEco EyeCO, which is developing digital glasses to tackle failing eyesight in older people, or presbyopia (they will be presenting an initial product at our ITF congress in May). Another is Bloom, a spin-off that makes sensors for pregnant women.
Also in our April magazine we will be showcasing many of the other brilliant ideas from our scientists. For instance, leading scientist Paul Heremans talks about his ERC research and how the extremely thin layers of organic molecules have to be properly ordered in order to produce better plastic transistors, solar cells and LEDs; Dimiter Prodanov shows us how we can deal more safely with nanomaterials; A story about how our researchers are working with FormFactor to develop a unique test station for silicon-photonic components and circuits; And finally, there’s also an article about imec’s initiatives to encourage spin-offs and start-ups to set up in business.
Luc Van den hove,
President en CEO imec
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22 March 2018