Life sciences and technology naturally fit together, and in many ways are among the hottest topics today. ‘We believe they benefit from each other. New developments in technology make new advances in life sciences possible. At the same time new discoveries in life sciences demand progress in the technology sector’, says Ajda Marič, biotechnologist by profession, co-founder of the ZMAG Institute, and the organiser of 'Rome wasn’t built in a day', an event taking place in Ljubljana, Slovenia, which is a pitch contest focused on start-ups in life sciences.
‘Just look at how biotechnology has evolved in recent years, never mind the amazing developments in biology and medicine. Thanks to the technological advances that have propelled these sciences, today new findings are being made at the level of precision of the nano- and pico- worlds’, she added.
However, the question of financing such projects is extremely complex. In each case the field and stage of development need to be considered. Every field has its own risk profile. ‘Certainly investment decisions have to take into account the innovation environment in which they are embedded. Life science development projects have different cycles when they are still within university environments or research laboratories, than when they are incorporated as start-up companies, growing small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) or large corporations.’
Another question refers to sourcing. ‘In the early stages you can cooperate with other scientific groups, or apply for EU funding or other public funds, but specific requirements in open calls for funding can set significant limitations. In the first round it is important that the person evaluating your application recognizes how your research fits within the vision of the open call. Additional criteria are the size of the research group, the researchers’ references, their own capital available for co-financing specific research-related equipment, and the societal and environmental impact of your research’, described the young biotechnologist. However, as a project evolves, a different type of incorporation and equity financing become a prerequisite.
With the rapid advances in IT, especially those in medicine, ‘life sciences can produce results when it comes to research and first prototypes much faster than let’s say 10 years ago’, Ms Marič explained, adding: ‘While many life sciences development projects still require more funds and time to reach the first consumers, the markets create a growing demand for new life sciences solutions bringing a higher quality of life.’
Ajda Marič has a Masters degree in Biotechnology and is a PhD candidate in Biosciences at the University of Ljubljana. She has worked on several projects with both established and start-up life sciences companies, and has organized several life sciences themed events.