Start-up coaching for inveterate researchers
A comprehensive carefree package has been created for those who overcome this hurdle of breaking out and deciding to start up a business - "a kind of training centre in which the scientists learn how to run a company and how to arouse interest in their research project among investors," explains Marion Schink, Head of Communication at the LSI. Like cell cultures in incubators, the aspiring company founders shall be able to work on their projects under stimulating conditions and remain as free as possible from administrative hurdles. To this end, the team has relocated to Bonn and continues to work on their research project at the caesar research centre as employees of the LSI. The LSI also places the necessary infrastructure at their disposal.
They additionally receive intensive coaching on the subject of leadership skills. "At universities, tasks are delegated too rarely, but this is a pre-requisite for a company's success," says Schink, sharing her experience. The scientists learn how to plan in the long term and set clear aims. This requires a different mindset to the experimenting that takes place at universities and research institutes, where results are not the be all and end all.
Work at the LSI is financed by the federal government and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia with up to two million euros per project. Those accepted onto the programme can look forward to at least one investor for their emerging company. Follow-up financial support by the LSI Pre-Seed-Fonds GmbH also forms part of the programme insofar as it agrees to the transfer of funds following successful incubation. Among the backers are the participating banks, the non-university facilities, and the private investors. By way of return, the backers receive a share in the newly-founded company. This varies depending on the incubation period - 15 per cent basic allowance for the first year plus 0.8 per cent for each additional month. So after three years at the LSI, the backers receive a share of 34.2 per cent.
Pilot project for further incubators
In comparison with other start-up programmes, the LSI gets involved in company development very early on, emphasises LSI Managing Director, Jörg Fregien. At this point, the risk of failure is still extremely high. However, the LSI's entrepreneurial expertise, the in-depth evaluation and project management should ensure that the start-up project does not fail for financial reasons. "Research naturally always entails an element of risk with regards to its success, and this cannot be entirely excluded." Fregien is convinced that a 50 per cent rate of success can be achieved with LSI - in comparison with other start-up programmes, which get involved at a far later stage. To date, the incubator has been doing well in the race: one start-up has already been launched and another is under way.
The LSI is now also to be introduced in other federal states. Negotiations are already under way with the responsible ministries and potential investors. There are plans for a subsidiary in Dresden and another in Göttingen. These will be in the field of photonics and optical technologies though, which is another highly innovative field of technology in Germany. "After all," Fregien says, "the Life Science Incubator model can be transferred to all fields of science".