InnoValley is the Innovation support unit that aims to provide the IGC and the ITQB NOVA with all professional support necessary to enable the scientific research created to be transferred to society and the market.
InnoValley is the joint innovation centre of the ITQB NOVA and the Gulbenkian Science Institute, created with the support of the Municipality of Oeiras.
This pioneering project in Portugal will leverage potential scientific research projects and boost the transfer of technology from both scientific institutes to the market, empowering researchers with the knowledge and tools necessary to develop their projects.
Get to know InnoValley better through the words of Marta Ribeiro, the “Face of Science” who coordinates this initiative and intends to make the transfer of technology in Oeiras a successful case at an international level.
When and in what context did the concept of InnoValley come about?
The concept of InnoValley and the creation of the Unit with the same name came about in response to the ambition and strategy shared between the Gulbenkian Science Institute, part of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the António Xavier Institute of Chemical and Biological Technology, part of NOVA University and the Municipal Council of Oeiras, to leverage the excellent research existing in the Municipality and create a structure that enables its transformation into new technologies and innovations with potential to reach the market.
In this connection to the market, an important factor is the concentration of healthcare and technology companies in the region, with which we aspire to have a particularly close relationship, in order to create a strong ecosystem throughout the entire value chain. We want to contribute towards creating an innovative brand for the region.
What are the purposes and benefits of InnoValley’s existence?
The existence of InnoValley as a support unit for Innovation follows best international practices with the objective of providing both institutes (the IGC and the ITQB NOVA) with all the professional support necessary so that the research created can be transferred to society and to the market, so that it may have a positive impact on citizens’ lives. We want to take science out of the laboratory and into the “real world”.
Moreover, the unit should also function as a gateway for industrial partners, clinicians, investors, among others, who want to develop some kind of project with the institutes. We are interested in discussing cooperation with potential partners.
What are the main initiatives that InnoValley will develop?
InnoValley’s activities are divided between what we call facilitators and results. The first are core activities that support the unit and create the conditions for achieving results, which are more related to typical performance indicators. Within the first group, we have internal and external communication, including a very close relationship with researchers and scientific staff in general, the establishment and communication of well-defined regulations and procedures, namely an intellectual property policy and profit sharing, and the creation of an internal funding mechanism for proof of concept (PoC), which will shortly be launched for the first time.
The PoC intends to finance projects that have shown promising results and that need further validation to generate interest from industrial partners or the creation of new spin-off companies, and/or patent submission. As for the results, in addition to the creation of patents, negotiation and management of the most varied cooperation arrangements with industry and other stakeholders, licence agreements and the creation of new companies, we have co-creation with industrial partners in a shared laboratory facility.
What are the expectations of InnoValley researchers and staff regarding the creation of this new project?
Researchers are often interested in participating more in this area, but they lack the time and specific knowledge for these initiatives to be successful, which ends up generating a certain lack of motivation. InnoValley fills this gap by offering a tailor-made service for each specific situation and project. I think that the work carried out during the year and a half that the unit has been operating has clearly shown the benefits and advantages that a structure of this type can bring, both institutionally and individually for researchers.
We have been able to transform a number of characteristics of the pandemic into opportunities for innovation with immediate impact, which has been very well received by society. As an example, I might mention the licensing agreement for serological testing technology for SarsCov-2 with the pharmaceutical company Medinfar. This technology was developed in the context of an academic consortium led by the IGC, with the ITQB NOVA also participating as a partner.
What assessment do you make of the advancement of science in Oeiras and how do you see its future?
The start of this project has been positive and there are still many opportunities with potential to be worked on and explored. A relevant factor for doing this work is scientific excellence, which undoubtedly exists. Another key factor is the ecosystem we are in, and at that level, we have to recognise that we do not yet have the wealth that exists, for example, in London or Barcelona. Even when we look at successful cases internationally, we realise that similar initiatives have been the result of a process lasting several years and involving a lot of investment.
I would say that everything points towards a bright future: the various stakeholders are increasingly aware of the importance of academically-based innovation and this fantastic initiative between the IGC and the ITQB NOVA, funded by the Municipality of Oeiras, is a good example of that.