Umeå Biotech Incubator
We have recently seen Inficure Bio, a resident of Umeå Biotech Incubator, awarded millions from Vinnova to support their work developing new treatments for fibrosis. How does the incubator help facilitate successes such as this?
My dream when I became CEO of UBI in 2012 was to build the kind of incubator that I wish I had access to when I founded a life science startup 14 years ago. Back then I was young, inexperienced and made a lot of mistakes - several of which could have been avoided if there had been someone I could have talked to who forced me out of my comfort zone and questioned my tests and strategies. Then I might have understood the risks sooner and may have been able to make changes before it was too late.
I believe our role as an incubator is to help innovators and companies achieve their full potential, with the ultimate goal of turning business concepts into growth companies. At UBI we have created an all-encompassing incubator process that consists of lots of smaller process steps that can be selected according to each company's individual needs. We have verified the process with investors and larger companies to ensure the businesses we work with are all considered credible and demonstrate great potential - making them attractive for investment and to the commercial sector.
Our incubator process is a bit like an academy, where step-by-step we guide innovators in parallel with their business concepts. Inficure Bio is a great example of this approach, where we saw very early on the entrepreneurial potential of its founder Sofia Mayans. Perhaps long before she even saw it herself!
‘We are Sweden’s only life science incubator established by rebellious scientists.’ Tell us more.
Umeå Biotech Incubator was started by Professor Tor Ny at Umeå University. He felt the innovation support that existed at the time was not adapted to the specific needs of life science innovators - so he started his own incubator within the university itself.
In 2008 we formed a separate company and today we are one of three academic incubators located in Umeå. Professor Ny’s spirit remains in the business and we still think of ourselves as rebels because of our way of conducting business development and developing the incubator.
We have a strong foundation in science that enables us to question habits, take risks and explore new ways of creating real benefits with our findings. Often this means we need to challenge conventional thinking and aim higher than most. It is this attitude that lies at the heart of UBI and one we try to pass on to all our companies.
What do you enjoy most about working at the incubator?
The best thing about working in an incubator is getting the opportunity to meet people every single day that have the potential to solve global problems, support them as they build their companies and watch them grow as individuals. I feel extremely happy and very proud that I get to share their journeys.
In your opinion, what sets Umeå Biotech Incubator apart from other incubators?
In Umeå we have a tradition of excellent Life science research but which has historically lacked a significant connection to the life science industry. This means we need to work more systematically when we support business ideas. We start earlier and work longer with companies to give them the conditions they need to develop into growing companies.
And since there aren't that many life science companies in our region we have also been forced to build national and international networks of investors, larger companies and leading experts to help support our companies. We’ve managed to turn this ‘weakness’ into one of our greatest strengths! The whole incubation process has been developed based on the same methodology we teach our companies - find out what their customers really need and develop products that fulfill them.
We initially consider the incubator companies we work with as ‘ours’ until they have attracted external equity capital. When the companies have the potential to grow we consider them and their owners as our customers. I think it’s a unique perspective that makes us different from other incubators.
What does the future hold for Umeå Biotech Incubator?
We are currently in the planning phase of building a new incubator process which we’re going to call Växa (‘Grow’ in Swedish) that helps companies streamline growth from the very start. Our goal is to develop more concepts into growing companies employing more people. In ten years time our ambition is that the number of small to medium-sized life science enterprises in our region will have doubled.