Just before Christmas, the Novo Nordisk Foundation announced that it will establish a new centre, the BioInnovation Institute (BII), which aims to help the most talented researchers and entrepreneurs in developing and maturing research projects to a point at which they can attract capital on market terms.
The initiative has sprung from the fact that research in the life sciences in Denmark has a high international level, but many research ideas and results are not implemented because of a lack of development facilities, experienced personnel and access to capital.
A grant of DKK 392 million
BII is a long-term initiative of 10 years and the Foundation has awarded a grant of DKK 392 million to cover the 3-year establishment phase. It is a Danish initiative with an international perspective according to the founders. It will be located in Copenhagen to create synergy with the existing research environments and laboratory facilities in the life sciences.
“The purpose is to support innovative entrepreneurs and talented researchers in further developing research projects to achieve new solutions that can potentially combat disease, improve health or conserve natural resources to benefit people and society as a whole,” says Sten Scheibye, Chairman of the Board, Novo Nordisk Foundation. “We hope that we can highlight Denmark as a strong powerhouse in northern Europe for maturing research and start-ups in the life sciences so that Danish and international investors will perceive the life sciences in Denmark as an attractive field for investment. This will enable the solutions developed to benefit everyone and to create new companies and jobs in the long term.”
“Our role will be to help to build the bridges between research and new discoveries and solutions that can benefit people. We support researchers with knowledge, expertise and risk capital at an early and decisive time,” says Birgitte Nauntofte, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation.
The four phases
During the discovery phase, BII will attract talented researchers and entrepreneurs from Denmark and abroad from research environments at universities and hospitals to collaborate on new pioneering ideas and inventions across disciplines.
The transition phase will primarily test promising projects in an acceleration process in which excellent research ideas are further developed and business plans are drafted. Experts and mentors will be involved in this phase.
The incubation phase covers projects for which a start-up company has been established. These projects have significant potential to be further developed. In the transition and incubation phases, BII will support start-up companies with risk capital and feedback through access to a network of experts within the start-up environment, financing, legal affairs and other areas critical for the business models of start-ups so that they develop towards becoming financially sustainable. Start-up companies that can attract external funding to implement the ideas in specific solutions then leave the incubation phase.
The growth phase covers companies that have attracted funding from external investors. They can use BII’s facilities on market terms.
The 3-year establishment phase
The 3-year establishment phase will focus on building the transition and incubation phases. This will enable existing research in the life sciences to benefit quickly from the opportunities offered by BII. During this period, BII will be anchored in the Foundation. After the establishment phase is evaluated, the Foundation’s Board of Directors will decide whether to establish BII as an independent foundation for years 4–10. When this happens, all activities and results from the first 3 years of operating BII will be available to the new foundation. This enables the first 3 years to be used to build a solid framework to ensure that BII starts well.