Boosting new photonics businesses 

TU/e researchers in the field of photonics recently got the opportunity to apply for valorization tickets funded within the Gravitation program ‘Research Centre for Integrated Nanophotonics’. Marcella Gagliardo, Business Developer Electronics, Physics & Photonics at the start-up platform The Gate, explains the ins-and-outs of the launched campaign ‘Photonics Ideation Booster’.

‘We started the Photonics Ideation Booster as a pilot to support valorization in the field of photonics,’ Gagliardo says. ‘In their recently awarded Growth Fund proposal, PhotonDelta has set a big ambition for start-up companies, and TU/e is a goldmine when it comes to photonic innovation. So, it is key to develop the right methods to empower creativity and support talent in the different departments by contributing to start-up creation, the most distinctive feature of the entrepreneurial knowledge-based economy.

The Photonics Ideation Booster is a collaboration between researchers and the business developer that explores the potential of new ideas in photonics. Researchers can apply for a voucher worth 20,000 euros which can be used to cover salary or other expenses related to a valorisation initiative. The program is explicitly intended for initiatives at a very early stage, and not for existing spin-offs.

Two out of five 

The call was launched mid-July, and five promising applications were received, Gagliardo tells. ‘I coached the idea owners and associated teams in the various phases of the process. The process included the preparation of the valorization vouchers and the pitches presented to a dedicated committee in September. Eventually, the two most mature ideas were granted a voucher to prepare towards becoming a spin-off. The voucher can be used for whatever is most necessary in this stage, ranging from performing additional experimental work, to developing business plans and market introduction scenarios. At The Gate, we help and support the teams in determining what they need most at this stage.’ The ideas that didn’t receive a voucher now will not be left out in the cold either, she emphasizes. ‘We are exploring how to support them to go forward as well.’

The Gate has a broad range of offerings, Gagliardo explains. ‘During the incubation phase of a start-up, we provide coaching and mentoring on business development, advise on intellectual property, and concrete help in finding additional funding. But perhaps most importantly, we help teams decide on what would be the best route for their technology to enter the market, since that determines what business model to pursue.’ Scientific research and business are two entirely different fields, and each require their own specific skills and expertise, she states. ‘The researchers know all about the science, and we are the experts when it comes to things like business plans, marketing strategies and market introduction.’

Privileged times

At the moment, the Photonics Ideation Booster is evaluated. ‘If this model turns out to be successful, we intent to find more funds and organize new rounds.’ Especially in the field of photonics, these are privileged times, Gagliardo emphasizes. ‘Money is available, and there is a strong market pull. What we need now are passionate, entrepreneurial people with good ideas.’ 

About The Gate

The Gate is a one-stop shop for tech startups. The team members and service partners provide information and guidance on workspaces, financing, training and coaching for entrepreneurial students, scientists and tech starters. The Gate is founded by Brainport Development, Brabant Development Agency (BOM), Fontys University of Applied Sciences, Summa College and Eindhoven University of Technology. The Gate is located at Alpha Hub (IPO building, TU/e campus). More info via www.thegate.tech or info@thegate.tech