IESE Business School
Barcelona Technology Transfer Group
By matching global MBA student entrepreneurs with scientists, doctors, and researchers, the Barcelona Technology Transfer Group accelerates the launch of deep-science-backed startups bringing impactful products from laboratory to market.
Call to Action:
A new generation of MBA students is increasingly impact-minded and entrepreneurial in spirit. As they begin their business studies, they are constantly generating, and looking for, new ideas to bring to the market. As entrepreneurship, in general, matures around the world, business creation in social impact is becoming more competitive. Business models such as consumer marketplace, asset sharing, and digital efficiency are increasingly difficult to find. While there are still interesting models to pursue, the competition is fierce, pushing some of the most ambitious minds to pursue new ideas beyond the digital sphere.
One area where we are seeing a vast opportunity of new ideas is in science. An important part of the future of entrepreneurship, we believe, lies in products and services that will emerge directly from research currently conducted in the laboratory or under a microscope. Scientists, however, have limited time and lateral skill sets to contemplate commercialization in a serious way. Despite best efforts of research centers to build effective technology-transfer teams, the data tells us that most attempts are ineffective.
Scientists need outsiders to join them, but they are skeptical of new people and are protective of their research, which does not facilitate commercialization. IESE Business School plays an important role here as “trust broker,” which accelerates the rate at which effective teams can be built. And because research centers generate a continuous flow of new technology, the relationship provides great “deal flow” for any business school.
IESE’s Barcelona Technology Transfer Group (BTTG) collaborates with universities, private and public research centers, and corporate innovation offices to commercialize late-stage prototypes with a foundation in deep science technology. We look for emerging technologies that will likely have a profound effect on society, business, and the environment. Teams must include scientific founder-entrepreneurs who have a desire to turn their work into practical products and services through a spin-off or spin-out model of startup creation.
Two elements of the program are unique: first, we have a preference for science founders, and we support technical teams that want to play an important role in leading a startup; and second, we believe that technology push is a viable way to start a company, especially when you surround yourself with a diverse group of participants from around the world and across a variety of sectors.
Once the selection is complete, scientists recruit teams of MBA students with an array of expertise and knowledge to support each of the projects (normally three to five per team) during a three-month period. The objective is to clearly define market priority, validate assumptions with customers and early adopters, and identify a robust growth strategy.
This work manifests itself in a masterful pitch deck the teams will present on demo day at the end of the program. We do not have a standard methodology that we follow, but rather adapt our program to each individual startup. We supplement this with MBA alumni mentors, specialized in all areas of business.
The impact we create through this program can be measured in three ways. First, we are creating jobs. At least 20 percent of startup participants have offered our MBA students full-time jobs (including one as CEO), and 50 percent offered summer internships. This is real job creation in the short term. More than half of the program participants have gone on to raise funds and hire other professionals across a range of skills. On average, startups have created three full-time jobs within one year of participating in our program.
Second, for the program, we select only participants that are “platform technologies,” meaning that MBA students gain experience in the commercialization of one specific product, but are also learning about technologies that have rapid growth trajectories across many industries well into the future. We are creating short-term opportunities for entrepreneurs and startups, but we are also generating insights that our graduates can use in industry, consulting, and banking to create unique value. Either way, there is a steep multiplier effect for each project we select.
Third, the impact of the startups we support is clear: mitigate climate change, enhance humanity, improve health. By selecting technologies with impact potential, we accelerate the benefit they will bring to the world, and increase the probability that they will survive. In the short life of our project, 67 percent of startups have survived our acceleration program, and each of those has gone on to raise a seed or series A funding round.