New funding instrument for academic entrepreneurs

2 July 2014

STW, ZonMw and NWO are introducing Take-off: a science-wide funding instrument that must encourage commercial activities and entrepreneurship at knowledge institutions. Take-off consists of a grant and a loan that academic entrepreneurs can use to translate a scientific discovery into a product or service. Take-off is being financed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Applications can be submitted until 1 October 2014.

Visual programme Take-off

Valuable research results risk not being utilised because knowledge and innovations face too many stumbling blocks to reach the market. Funding is needed to bridge the gap between research and market. This so-called early phase funding forms a bottleneck: private investors and banks consider the risk of investing in this idea and planning phase to be too large. The programme Take-off bridges this ‘funding gap’ in the early phase of the business.

Grant and loan

Take-off consists of two parts: feasibility studies and early phase trajectories. For a Take-off feasibility study scientists can request funding up to a maximum of 40,000 euros. A feasibility study results in a report about the possibilities for a start-up.

A Take-off early phase trajectory goes through the steps needed to make a knowledge innovation commercially viable, such as a production process, market research, and marketing and financing plans. For this trajectory, innovative start-up companies can apply for a loan of between 50,000 and 250,000 euros. During the early phase trajectory there must be a collaboration with one of the Dutch knowledge institutions. The aim is that at the end of this trajectory others – such as private parties – can invest in the next phase.

For all scientific disciplines

Take-off is open to applications from all scientific disciplines (engineering/natural sciences, life sciences and arts/humanities). STW is the official secretary of the programme and will assess the natural sciences and engineering proposals. ZonMw is involved for the life sciences and other NWO divisions will assess the proposals for the arts and humanities.

Each year 6.65 million euros will be made available for about 80 projects. Two funding rounds will be held each year. In each round 925,000 euros will be available for feasibility studies and 2.4 million euros for the early phase trajectories.

Take off replaces existing instruments

Take-off is a next step in the NWO policy for knowledge utilisation. Take-off replaces the Valorisation Grant of STW. Part of the funding will no longer be a grant but an interest-bearing loan. A study in 2013 revealed that the majority of start-ups with a Valorisation Grant were financially strong enough to eventually pay back the grant received.

Successful start-ups

Previous programmes for this step in utilising knowledge from scientific research have yielded good results. For example, the Valorisation Grant has already led to 47 successful start-ups (companies that have grown and/or have attracted external funding). Between them these companies have a turnover of 16.8 million euros a year, which is more than all of the grants awarded over a ten-year period.

One example of a successful outcome of knowledge utilisation is the Eindhoven company Sorama. This firm has developed a sound camera that can be used to design quieter boilers, yachts and trucks, for example. Another result is the app Tomb Reader, which translates Egyptian hieroglyphics and provides information when you take photos using smartphone. The start-up Medimate from Enschede produces disposable Lab-on-a-chips, which manic-depressive patients can use to test the lithium level in the blood and which kidney patients can use to measure the sodium level in their urine.

Practical information

The first call for proposals closes on 1 October 2014. On 26 August, NWO, STW and ZonMw are organising an information meeting. Researchers can also contact a telephone helpdesk.

Take-off is part of the funding instrument Early Phase Financing of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

 

Source: NWO