• Date: February 20, 2020

CaixaImpulse is all about helping biomedical entrepreneurs transform their innovations into products and services that have real benefit for society. It was back in 2015 that “la Caixa” launched this acceleration programme, recognising a gap between research and the healthcare industry that needed to be filled. Five years later, 99 projects have been supported in the Validate call, 20 of which are now spin-offs. This initiative, a collaboration with Caixa Capital Risc, has been receiving the support of EIT Health since 2017. The CaixaImpulse community is still growing and so is “la Caixa’s” commitment to health innovation, which last year resulted in a new call for more mature projects, CaixaImpulse Consolidate, which has already supported 4 projects.

But beyond figures, what has been the overall impact of CaixaImpulse? To get an answer, we spoke to some of the innovation and knowledge transfer officers at two research centres that have had various projects take part in CaixaImpulse. They discussed the effect that CaixaImpulse has had on the innovation community within their institutions, and the programme’s importance in the commercialisation process.

Graciela Fernández Arrojo oversees the transfer of research results at Fundación Profesor Novoa Santos in A Coruña, which has had two projects selected in CaixaImpulse. Xavier Puñet is a technology transfer officer at the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), which has have had seven projects selected over the past five editions of CaixaImpulse.

How has the support of CaixaImpulse helped boost biomedical projects at your institute?

GRACIELA: Our foundation has received the programme's support twice, and in both cases it has been an important boost for visibility and prestige that being selected in such a competitive call represents. Being part of CaixaImpulse could be compared to having a quality seal and it’s a challenge not only for the selected proposals but also for incipient projects that intend to participate in the future.

XAVIER: As a public research centre focused on bioengineering and nanomedicine, we have a commitment to transfer our results and knowledge to society, in order to create impact and improve healthcare. However, funding opportunities focused on the execution of proof-of-concept studies, on the reduction of risks associated with early-stage innovations and on the accumulation of value for the effective transfer of innovations towards the market, are scarce. CaixaImpulse is currently the best national innovation programme, not only because of the funding opportunity and training, which are essentials, but also because of their understanding of the specific needs and difficulties related to innovation projects.

Leaders of the 2017 CaixaImpulse Validate projects at Palau Macaya during a training week

What wider impact has CaixaImpulse had on your centre’s innovation community?

XAVIER: For IBEC, CaixaImpulse has been a major driver of innovation, not only helping to move forward our innovation pipeline, but also to raise new entrepreneur profiles willing to jump into the innovation arena.

What role has CaixaImpulse played in the RDI process?

GRACIELA: It is not just about financing a project (though that’s also important), it’s also about training for both the project leader and the transfer representative. Training, mentoring and consultancy expert hours are crucial because they allow a better approach to the market from the very beginning, taking care of all aspects: from intellectual property, to regulatory affairs, to technology transfer agreements.

XAVIER: The programme follows a methodology that is constantly challenging innovations and entrepreneurs in order to detect flaws, polish the business model and pivot the project when necessary. Indeed, all these changes taking place during project development require a flexible model in the execution, a major attribute of Caixaimpulse. The programme also provides a network of highly specialised professionals that help projects to evaluate the project from all possible sides, and a wide number of tools to improve entrepreneurs’ skills, such as pitching, and project and team management. Therefore, CaixaImpulse is the long-time missing piece of the puzzle that fills the gap between research and industry. It is the bridge that helps innovators to cross the so-called “Valley of Death”.

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