The UPC celebrates 20 years of entrepreneurial spirit

The UPC celebrates 20 years of entrepreneurial spirit

More than 500 entrepreneurs have received support in the first Espai Emprèn UPC

The UPC celebrates 20 years of entrepreneurial spirit

The University plans to replicate the incubation model on the rest of its campuses

The UPC is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Innova Programme, a pioneering initiative in Catalonia and Spain focused on promoting the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the university community and fostering the creation of knowledge- and technology-based companies. As a result of this initiative, more than 300 companies have created 4,500 jobs, more than 500 patents have been applied for, and more than 200 technologies have been licensed as a result of research.

Nov 27, 2018

The UPC organised an event to celebrate 20 years of entrepreneurship on 23 November in the Auditorium of the Barcelona East School of Engineering (EEBE) on the Diagonal-Besòs Campus (Av. Eduard Maristany, 16). The event was attended by the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Quim Torra; the rector of the UPC, Francesc Torres ; the emeritus professor of the UPC Francesc Solé Parellada, the promoter and former director of the Innova Programme; and Alfons Cornella, director of Infonomia.

The aims of the Innova Programme, set up in 1998, are to transmit the values of innovation and entrepreneurship to research and teaching staff, students, graduates, and administration and service staff; to support the creation of companies; and to valorise the research carried out at the UPC. The Programme has been a leader of university entrepreneurship in Catalonia and Spain and was one of the first in this field in Europe, situating the UPC as a benchmark institution.

Support to science transfer
The Innova Programme has had two fields of action. First, it has supported the transfer of science and technology to patents, to new companies and to the project incubator. In 20 years, by disseminating innovation and acting as a technological springboard, Innova has allowed 330 spin-offs and start-ups to be set up. (The UPC has a shareholding in 80 of the spin-offs.) In addition, 4,500 jobs have been created, more than 500 patents have been applied for and 223 technologies have been licensed. The last 12 companies have been launched this year. This activity has helped populate the ecosystem of the UPC Research and Innovation Park and the knowledge industry of the innovative ecosystem of Catalonia.

The programme has served as a technological springboard for the creation of outstanding business initiatives that are now well established: Fractus patented the world's first fractal antenna, a technology that is now incorporated in all mobile phones; Nice Fruit was the first company in the world to freeze any type of fresh fruit and vegetables while keeping the cell structure intact; Cebiotex designs and manufactures nanofibre membranes for the local treatment of the surgical site in tumour treatments; Mimetis Biomaterials creates materials and technologies for bone regeneration; Justinmind is a platform for simulating web and mobile applications; Dexma is software for energy management (water, gas and electricity); Rob Surgical Systems designs robots and medical devices for laparoscopic surgery; Buildair is a world leader in inflatable textile structures; and Sensofar develops and markets high technology related to optical metrology. Innova has also supported many other business initiatives.

The entrepreneurial spirit has taken root at the UPC—so much so that the University already creates 40% of the spin-offs that emerge from the Catalan university system. (Of the 150 created in total in 2018, 60 emerged from the UPC community.) According to the latest reports from the Spanish Knowledge and Development Foundation and the Research and Knowledge Transfer Survey of the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE), about 10% of the university spin-offs created in Spain during the period 1998-2015 emerged from the UPC.
How does the Innova Programme work?
In promoting the creation of companies, Innova offers support for all the links in the value chain. It receives entrepreneurs who believe they have a valuable opportunity and helps them evaluate it; if suitable, it proposes applying for a patent; and it helps would-be entrepreneurs (with or without a patent) create the prototype and draw up the business plan. The Programme helps find money and spaces to set up the company. Finally, after the company has been created, it helps it consolidate and grow.

The UPC has also more than 100,000 m2 of space full of activity outside the constraints of conventional teaching and research. These spaces of the UPC Research and Innovation Park distributed throughout the UPC’s campuses are for incubating opportunities, for helping new companies that are growing, and for supporting established companies that interact with the research system. The UPC has created a network of services to help realise what researchers and students are capable of imagining, putting technology at the service of society, and transferring the scientific and technological contributions of professors and researchers.

A benchmark programme
The second major line of action of the Innova Programme, and the one that has made the UPC a benchmark, is its support for the entrepreneurial spirit and the culture of innovation. In total, it is estimated that some 25,000 UPC students have received training and developed capacities in this field.

One of the distinguishing features of the UPC’s technological springboard is the talent of the students. This is evident in the entrepreneurial spaces for students called Espais Emprèn UPC, promoted with the collaboration of the town councils of Barcelona, Terrassa, Castelldefels and Vilanova i la Geltrú. These spaces have become established as co-working spaces where students and recent graduates can mature and develop their business idea and venture into personal projects. The spaces welcome all those who request specialised training, talks, activities to promote business culture and innovation, advice, technical support, and connections with other entrepreneurs and international networks. The spaces are accessible 365 days a year and have work rooms for groups, meeting rooms, areas for networking, and shared resources and facilities. In addition to exchanging knowledge with their colleagues, the students can participate in the Explorer Contest organised by the University.

More than 40 student projects have been pre-incubated and more than 500 entrepreneurs have received support in the first Espai Emprèn UPC on the North Campus of Barcelona, which opened in 2014, and the one that opened recently on the Terrassa Campus. The University plans to replicate the incubation model on the rest of its campuses, and one is scheduled to open in December in the Neàpolis building in Vilanova i la Geltrú. The latest incubated student projects include the following: Abitari, which offers a system for automating routine hotel work; Finboot, a digital platform for boosting block chain corporate applications; and Goin, which offers automatic saving solutions for millennials.

Thanks to its tools and strategies of innovation and entrepreneurship, the UPC is committed to continuing to build an ecosystem that is a driving force for innovation throughout Catalonia, and especially on its campuses: Barcelona, Castelldefels, Manresa, Sant Adrià de Besos, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Terrassa and Vilanova i la Geltrú.