Successful collaboration delivers results
With different roles and expertise, they work towards the same overall goal – to contribute to Uppsala University’s efforts to take research forward and utilise knowledge in society. Meet Gunilla Lundmark, CEO of UU Invest, and Malin Graffner Nordberg, Head of UU Innovation, as they sum up the past year, talk about the collaboration, and discuss their plans and hopes for 2022.
It is almost impossible to keep a description of how UU Innovation and UU Invest work together brief. But the collaboration is crucial, and the roles are clear.
UU Invest, the University’s holding company, is tasked with investing in ideas, projects and companies based on research and knowledge generated at Uppsala University. UU Innovation’s role is to inspire and guide researchers and students forward in their quest to turn their research results and ideas into useful solutions, and to offer practical support in evaluating and developing the viability of the ideas. Wherever there is potential – the two actors sometimes come together in joint projects. And when ideas take off, UU Invest is often the first investor in the companies that are created.
A successful year for UU Innovation
When Malin Graffner Nordberg looks back over 2021, the words fantastic and exciting come to mind as she sums up the year.
“2021 was a fantastic year. Our work has produced positive and exciting results, and we have developed our offerings to both researchers and students and have made new efforts to reach out. Particularly exciting are the new dialogues we have established with research leaders at different departments to discuss both utilisation of research results and reducing the imbalance in the flow of ideas. This dialogue has generated curiosity, expanded our contact network, and increased the flow of ideas during the year,” says Malin Graffner Nordberg.
A focus for her and her team has also been on arousing curiosity and lowering the thresholds for support. Something new this year, for example, is a simple self-test that helps researchers identify what they are creating in their research that has the potential to be useful outside their immediate research environment.
Success breeds success
The fact that UU Innovation’s work has been successful, reaching out and generating increased interest among researchers and students to contribute to new or better solutions to various needs in society, creates opportunities for Gunilla Lundmark and the staff of UU Invest to hone their work – and be the first investors to join the companies on their way to the market.
“Yes, I am very pleased with the good work of UU Innovation, and I applaud the efforts and great skills of the staff,” says Gunilla Lundmark.
Investing in interesting new companies
2021 has also been a successful year for UU Invest, with a highly positive result. Strike Pharma, Disruptive Pharma, MM18 Medical and Rarity Bioscience are four new companies that have been added to the portfolio.
“As we work in an ‘evergreen structure’, where returns on investments made are the basis for future investments, this provides a good starting point for new investments in the companies that are in the pipeline. We stand firm and secure. In 2021, we made some 20 investments and doubled our investment capital. We also stepped up our outreach to other investors for both co-investments and later-stage investments,” says Gunilla Lundmark.
“During the year, we also started work to tell and communicate more about our activities, our companies and, in particular, the researchers and students who have set up companies to take their research further. The hope is that this will inspire others to do the same. So the call to action is – follow us and be inspired by the advice and experience of others.”
Increased interest in portfolio companies from investors
Gunilla Lundmark believes that 2021 has also been a year of increased interest in investing in early-stage companies and increased access to venture capital from both business angels and larger investors – something that has resulted in greater interest in investing in UU Invest’s portfolio companies. This is encouraging, according to Gunilla Lundmark, who sees it as a stamp of quality that strengthens the attractiveness of the University’s holding company and increases interest in investing in the companies.
During the year, UU Invest and the foundation Beijerstiftelsen also intensified their collaboration to increase the conditions for funding and commercialising new research ideas, starting in 2022.
The project company – an opportunity to grow ideas into companies
Although the roles of UU Innovation and UU Invest are clear, they collaborate on some joint projects in UU Invest’s project company Uppsala University Projekt AB. This is where the companies with the promising ideas that are not quite ready for incorporation are found.
The collaboration is a great opportunity for both UU Innovation and UU Invest to follow and support the ideas. The projects are given time to refine their business idea and, through experienced consultants, test their offering, analyse the target group and market and, not least, build a team with the right skills. When the time is ripe, the projects can then transition into a company in which UU Invest may invest. Two examples of ideas that have matured are the companies Strike Pharma and Rolling Optics, in which UU Invest has invested.
Strong desire to increase efforts in 2022
For 2022, Malin Graffner Nordberg and Gunilla Lundmark’s plans are in place and work is underway. A strong desire to increase efforts to reach more researchers and students and to use the assistance they each offer to encourage more people to take their research further to society runs like a common thread through both UU Innovation and UU Invest’s work. The fact that one does not exclude the other is another message both stand behind. Taking an idea further or taking research further to society does not mean a person’s time as researcher is over. On the contrary. It creates new and interesting opportunities.
In more concrete terms, what do you want to see happen in 2022?
Malin Graffner Nordberg: I am full of anticipation for this year, and hope to be able to say that we have really found a way to effectively reach out to new researchers and students with our offering. We have developed a clearer outflow strategy for the projects we support, which I hope we can see positive results from already in 2022. This includes working more clearly with sustainability issues, the importance of having a team around your project, and fine-tuning the communication of the project to generate more interest in it. With this in mind, it is my firm hope that our work will lead to UU Invest being able to make more new investments than usual during the year.
Gunilla Lundmark: In 2022, I want us to double the number of new investments. I want to increase the number of projects we get involved in, and I want our activities to expand so that the investments we have already made increase our returns – so that we can invest in more companies. I also hope that we reach out to more students than we do today, and that we invest in more student-founded companies during the year.