Team:Uppsala Universitet/Science Entrepreneurship



Over the course of the iGEM project, our team had the privilege of interviewing and speaking with many leaders within the science entrepreneur space. In conjunction with the iGEM project, the team was interested in their experiences with taking a scientific solution and creating a business from it. Here we present the people we have interviewed, the topics that were discussed, and most importantly, all the things that we have learned.

Anna Svantes

Current job: Business Developer at Organofuel AB
Education: Bachelor degree in Entrepreneurship (Södertörns Högskola)

Awards: 2019 Winner of the Almi Pitch which is an international pitch competition for small businesses in Scandinavia

Goals: Transforming lignin into high value chemicals and biomaterials by using organic chemistry!

What we have learned:
Tips and tricks
  • Participation in pitch and entrepreneurship competitions

    Advantages: Competitions of this type can be a source for the initial cash necessary to get a business off the ground. Moreover, it can be a way of marketing yourself and find possible investors.

    Disadvantages: There is often a top limit on how much funding a company can receive.

  • Acquiring Governments Grants

    Advantages: The government grants are often targeted on helping to foster small business growth by giving grants to companies that will meet a current need. Normally the innovation centres are associated with these platforms which help in the initial stages.

    Disadvantages: Often it is more difficult to get money for scaling up from the proof of concept to pilot study and beyond.

  • Finding Investors

    Advantages:The increased funds allow businesses greater flexibility to invest in their own company in order to grow.

    Disadvantages: A business can lose some of its independence. Investors and entrepreneurs can often have divergent opinions on the company’s goals and the strategies to achieve them.

Patrick Enfält

Current job: Director of Business Development at Easy Mining
Education: Master in Agricultural Engineering (SLU)
Awards: Recently awarded an investment of 1,9 million US dollars from the European Union’s LIFE programme for commercializing its patented method for removing nitrogen from sewage water in August 2019
Goals: Extracting uncontaminated nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater in order to reuse it!

What we have learned:
Effect of regulations on product marketability
  • Many new scientific techniques are being developed that aim to recycle scarce natural resources found in for example wastewater. This is part of a larger effort to develop societies with circular economies, where resources are continually reused. However, many governments have not created the regulatory framework necessary to oversee advancements in this field, which can stall innovation and scalability.
What could be improved about regulations
  • In order for companies like EasyMining to successfully scale up, government regulations need to keep pace with the technological advancement. This is necessary to allow innovative new techniques, including the recycling of natural resources, to quickly enter the market and bring about the positive, environmental changes that the general public is demanding.
Tips and Tricks
  • Assembling a good team with a wide variety of skills is extremely important.
  • If the cost of research and development is 1 unit, then the production is 10 units and the marketing is 100 units. It is often not the best idea that will win in the marketplace, but the one which is communicated the best.
  • There is no substitute for experience. University is a perfect opportunity to try starting up a business. Doing competitions like iGEM give students the ability to combine theoretical knowledge with practical experience.
  • There are no shortcuts. Building a small business takes time and effort, so be prepared to put in a significant amount of work to make a scientific discovery into a product.

Björn Alriksson

Current job: Group Leader at RISE Processum AB 33
Education: PhD in Biochemistry (Karlstad University)
2017 Winner of the Innovation in Cellulosic Applications Award
Goals: Using oil producing yeast to create jet fuel from the leftover wood processing scraps!

What we have learned:
Effect of regulations on product marketability
  • Targeting more money to the renewable society is an important factor in transition from small business to business with a profit
  • Unfortunately, political trends often cause short term changes in legislation, which makes it difficult for companies to invest in long-term projects like biorefineries.
What could be improved about regulations
  • Tech neutral laws that the private sector can trust to be held the same for the long-term future are needed.
Tips and Tricks
  • Make sure to balance the science that you have with the marketing of the product. Scientific development often takes time and over-commercialization is often the trap small businesses focused on scientific solutions fall into.
  • When developing a product or process that will be used in a biorefinery, identify end products that will be cost effective and can be solved better using biotechnology. Otherwise, chemical methods, although less environmentally friendly, will often be significantly cheaper in the current regulatory framework.
  • Make sure that the market you are entering with the product is big enough for making a profit.