Interview Prof. Aard Groen: ‘Making new business out of research’

Exciting entrepreneurial 2018 for Prof. Aard Groen, Dean University of Groningen Center of Entrepreneurship (UGCE) . June 2018 UGCE will be moving to its brand new location at Kadijk, Zernike Campus, City of Groningen. From 23-25 March 2018 the next Student VentureLab Weekend will take place at the University of Groningen. VentureLab Weekend is a 3-day-long event where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their best business idea to find out if their startup concepts are viable. Prof. Aard Groen is organizer of the student entrepreneurship VentureLab in Groningen. A successful concept. 

Aard Groen: ‘We build a funnel of activities for students to make them acquainted with and prepared for entrepreneurship. First, an extracurricular course on entrepreneurship (ECCE) for 100 students, which is an evening course where we talk about the main concepts of entrepreneurship and let students discuss issues with experienced entrepreneurs. ECCE is followed by Student VentureLab Weekend which gives 50 entrepreneurially focused students of UG, UMCG and also Hanze a chance to develop the value creation potential of their business ideas.’ 

Venture Lab Weekend

Often the students will be working on the ideas they found during the ECCE. Aard Groen: ‘VentureLab Weekend is an intensive 50 hours program in a supportive, structured and success-focused environment culminating with a pitch contest. After the Weekend promising ideas and teams can take part in the VentureLab acceleration program. In a full year follow-up process of the VentureLab program the participants receive advisory services, peer-to-peer learning from experienced business coaches and develop their enterprise further.’ 

Value Creation

The ECCE and Student VentureLab Weekend concepts have already generated promising business concepts and put enthusiastic student CEO’s on their path to value creation: 

CC Diagnostics

The student company CC Diagnostics  offers an easily implementable triage test for cervical cancer, with an unsurpassed specificity and reproducibility, which will decrease the number of misdiagnosed women, decrease healthcare costs, and increase screening participation. In the western world, 10 million triage tests are performed in cervical cancer screening programs on an annual basis. 

Another student company IV Wear develops a portable drip, whereby patients can freely walk around the hospital without an infusion pole. Movement during a hospitalization is essential. Patients will recover faster and can leave the hospital sooner. IVWear has won a number of prestigious awards. Among them, the Sustainable Healthcare Challenge, the Economic Board Groningen Pitch and third place (25.000 EUR) in the ZonMw Medical Inspirators competition. 

A third example is Sustainable Buildings developed by two PhD students and their professor of Artificial Intelligence, creating an energy efficiency oriented intelligent system that enhances the climate while reducing energy use. After Venturelab they acquired successfully investment capital through crowd funding and develop their product with lead customers University- and municipality of Groningen now. 

Aard Groen: ‘CC Diagnostics management team, is consisting of 3 students in opposite areas of study: Medical Sciences, Law and International business. They were recently joined by a very experienced senior health product development manager, and are now negotiating an investment of 500.000 to 1 million euros for further development and commercialisation of their diagnostic test ’ 

Being passionate 

One thing for certain: predicting at first sight whether someone is a born entrepreneur or will become a successful entrepreneur, is in the lap of the gods, says Groen. ‘Being passionate about an idea and believing that starting a new company is the best selection ground for admitting into a support program. If such program can empower this passion with knowledge and networks for business development, we will get more successful entrepreneurs.’ 

Combine study and entrepreneurship 

The University of Groningen Center of Entrepreneurship is offering a variety of tailor-made education programs, excellent research and active business development sup-port for business growth. It also helps others to set up programs of entrepreneurship education, training and support. Besides, UGCE offers a Top level arrangement for Student Entrepreneurs, equivalent to UG’s Students Topsport Regulations programme. Aard: ‘UGCE implements the University of Groningen policy that students should be able to successfully combine study and entrepreneurship.’ 

New Master Entrepreneurship 

Exciting 2018 thus for Aard Groen and the UGCE team. Recently, the Dean of Entre-preneurship has been invited by StartUp Delta to develop a new Master in Entre-preneurship. StartUp Delta works with the ministries of Economic Affairs and Education, Culture and Science and the Dutch startup community on strengthening, connecting and growing the startup ecosystem of the Netherlands. An honorable mission. 

Aard: ‘The University of Groningen offers a Minor “Innovation & Entrepreneurship”, but a minor program is primarily focused on bachelor students. The new Master “Entrepreneurship” concept will be developed to add an entrepreneurship oriented phase to the disciplinary programs. For example, like the existing master trajectory within Science, Business, Policy of FSE, and some of the EIT funded international medical mas-ters, which are natural starting points for this new development’ 

Growing the impact via Northern Knowledge 

And with a big move with UGCE and VentureLab and Northern Knowledge Innovation platform to Start-Up City, Zernike Campus, just around the corner. Aard Groen is member of the Programme Board of Northern Knowledge. Northern Knowledge is the u nique innovation platform in the North of the Netherlands, profiling business-research cooperation performance of the University of Groningen, UMCG and Hanze University of Applied Sciences. 

Aard: ‘Northern Knowledge is the umbrella of which new business is made visible. The platform offers basic facilities in the perspective of building networks, access to know-ledge, funding, guidance for start-ups, incubator facilities, and business surroundings. One office for innovation and value creation. It gives us and our partners a more visible and bright future ahead.’ 

More information

University of Groningen Center of Entrepreneurship (UGCE) 

VentureLab Weekend March 23-25, 2018