Wageningen spin-offs with WUR expertise are now able to apply for funding from VIVES. This Belgian investment fund has entered into a collaboration with Wageningen University & Research (WUR), aiming to increase opportunities for spin-offs in the field of Life Sciences. The partnership fits in with WUR’s strategy to apply Wageningen expertise in practice.
Wageningen start-ups and spin-offs were already able to apply for funding at SHIFT Invest and Innovation Industries. The VIVES-fund, which is narrowly linked to the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), primarily supports academic spin-offs focused on ICT and so-called red biotech. Sebastiaan Berendse, director of Value Creation at WUR, explains.
‘Red biotech means medical applications in life sciences, in addition to white (industrial) biotech and green (biobased) applications. Emerging businesses in this sector often have a long road ahead of them until the original idea is validated and can be applied in practice as an approved product. Experience and a network of partners are crucial to that development path from the get-go. The VIVES fund has been investing in academic spin-offs for 15 years. Previously, WUR collaborated closely with UCL and VIVES at the start of A-Mansia Biotech. This third VIVES fund has an international reach (the Benelux and northern France) through its collaboration with several universities.’
Science applied in practice
The VIVES fund will amount to some 50 million euros in the course of this year. The investment fund is not just interested in high returns on investment but also seeks to see science applied in practice.
Berendse: ‘Of course, WUR collaborates with the Life Science top sector and conducts fundamental research, in this field as well. However, the development into a medical product such as a medicine, probiotic or medical technological device requires steps that pertain to the private sector. A start-up with a licence or access to protected WUR expertise (thus, a WUR spin-off) may approach funds such as VIVES for seed capital. These Belgians are acutely aware of the steps an academic start-up must take. In addition to capital (in exchange for shares), this fund’s strength lies in supporting the business development (such as how to get the right team) and in assisting in clinical tests. Without these trials, the idea will never reach the stage of implementation in practice.’