March 2018. Dreams come true. Four entrepreneurial girls from UMCG and Hanze University of Applied Sciences (UAS) met at VentureLab Weekend (VLW) spring 2018 edition in Groningen and decided to become a business team for the weekend. They called the start-up under construction MedGro taking up the challenge to commercialize an improved version of a cell culture plate. Bingo! MedGro claimed the first prize in the business challenge. Two months after VLW victory Northern Knowledge met MedGro team at UMCG café. How did they experience the weekend? Are they making progress?
‘We really enjoyed the VentureLab Weekend. We learned a lot from lectures, coaching sessions and from other students as well,’ says Vera Carniello, biomedical scientist at UMCG. For the first time, the VentureLab Weekend organization invited students from both UG and Hanze UAS to participate and work on innovation and value creation together. Vera: ‘This UMCG-Hanze UAS collaboration provided great diversity in expertise to the teams.’
Besides Vera Carniello, the MedGro team consists of Courtney Bamrick and Claire Scales, student researchers and experts of business and marketing, Hanze UAS, and Nina Klaver, medical student researcher from the UMCG.
Claire: ‘Claiming the first prize was a real team effort. We met each other for the first time at Venturelab Weekend. We worked hand-in-hand to improve the result. My contribution was to deliver expertise on business and financial aspects to start a business. On medical knowledge, I hadn’t a clue. Vera and Nina have. ’
Courtney: ‘My ‘job’ was to pitch the idea to the jury. We had to pitch the idea in English and since I’ am born American we could present our product effecttively. ’
‘Nina and I are typical researchers,‘ Vera smiles. ‘Researcher’s aim is to pu-blish a research paper in order to get a PhD degree . T
he strategy how to transfer knowledge into products and bring this product to the market is a reality far-away. To prepare ourselves for the VentureLab Weekend, Nina and I attended the Extracurricular course offered by the University of Groningen Centre of Entrepreneurship. The course provides you with an opportunity to learn more about entrepreneurship from both academic and practitioner perspectives.’
VentureLab Weekend is a 3-day-long event organized by University of Groningen Centre of Entrepreneurship (UGCE), where entrepreneurs can find out if their startup ideas are viable. Students pitch the offered product or service in front of a jury after 52h of preparation on the path to pitching by coaching sessions and lectures of successful entrepreneurs.
The MedGro team pitched an improved version of a cell culture plate, which is a standard plate often used in research laboratories for studying human, animal, plant, and bacterial cells. This idea was originally developed by the research group of Dr. Patrick van Rijn of the BioMedical Engineering department of the UMCG, who developed a complex technology to improve laboratory testing of cells and biomedical materials. Vera: ’We pitched a working prototype. It gave us some advantage to the other competing teams.’ More specific information about the product is not available. ‘The invention is under patent application at the UG and UMCG IP department,’ grins the aspiring entrepreneurs.
What did they learn at VLW from a practitioner perspective? Claire: ‘A sound financial plan section in a business plan is the section that determines whether or not your business idea is viable, and is a key component in deter-mining whether or not your plan is going to be able to attract any investment in your business idea. To specify operating expenses specifically for a medical device, was a learning experience. The starting budget to invest to make of MedGro a successful start-up will be about 250.000 euros, to include further research and a marketing pilot.’
Vera: ‘We invested a lot of time at the start of VentureLab Weekend to in-form each other of the ins and outs of the product to pitch. It was a useful learning experience to challenge each other to define a better business model.‘
End of May 2018, MedGro team is marking time. For various reasons. From a legal point of view: the improved version of the cell culture plate is a me-dical device for laboratory diagnostics and has to be covered by the European directive on medical devices.
And marking time from a study and career point of view. Claire: ‘I am in my 4th year of International Business and Management study at Hanze UAS. I have to set time aside to finish my study. Maybe MedGro is a suitable project to do my thesis.’
Vera: ‘In a few months I will be graduating with a PhD on bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation on biomaterials at UMCG. After graduation my future is open .’
Courtney: ‘I’m an exchange student finishing my minor Business Development at Hanze UAS. In a few weeks I will be returning to Arizona to finish my bachelor. Maybe I can introduce MedGro market potential in the United States,’ says the young Hanze student with sparkling eyes.
What makes someone a successful entrepreneur? Clair: ‘Having an open mind.’ Courtney: ‘Being persistent.’ Vera: ’Having the flexibility to expose yourself to new ideas. Give opportunity a chance.’
Are you interested in partnering with MedGro or interested to invest in the UMCG-Hanze UAS spin-off? Please contact
Northern Knowledge is the open innovation platform of University of Groningen, UMCG, and Hanze University for Applied Sciences
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