A programme that transfers innovative health research results to society by promoting the creation of companies, products and services.

Roger Gomis ICREA Researcher at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine Barcelona and founder of Inbiomotion, S.L.

1. Problem

It is necessary to equip researchers with the tools, knowledge and support that are essential for the results of their research to benefit society.

In recent years, growing competitiveness in science has been accompanied by an improvement in the innovation ecosystem. However, within the EU28, Spain is still lagging at the 20th position in innovation, according to the European Innovation Scoreboard (2016). The indicator for patents with effect in Europe, the United States and Japan, places Spain 26th out of all world countries, with three patents per million inhabitants, far below the averages for the EU (23.3) and the OECD (33.1).

With this scenario, a major need exists for programmes that strengthen innovation through mentoring and support for the transfer of technology with a social impact.

2. Approach

The CaixaImpulse programme seeks to transfer the results of innovative research projects in the health and medical sciences field to society.

Promoted by "la Caixa" Foundation and Caixa Capital Risc and with the collaboration of the European initiative EIT-Health, the programme’s aim is the creation of patents, licences, market services and spin-off companies. For projects selected through an open competition procedure, it offers financial aid of €70,000 along with a training, mentoring and advice service.

The key feature of CaixaImpulse is that it offers training in entrepreneurship to scientists generating knowledge and actors working in the technology transfer field. CaixaImpulse has also established a unique framework for interaction between scientists, the institutions that host them, financial investors and industry, in order to act as a catalyst for the creation of new enterprises based on cutting-edge knowledge.

3. Results

Through its first three calls for entries, CaixaImpulse has lent support to 58 projects. Among the participants in the first edition in 2015, two spin-off companies were founded and four patents awarded.

The subject areas were very diverse and included the development of medical devices, therapeutic compounds and diagnostic systems. They tackle medical challenges of major significance, such as the development of vaccines, the diagnosis of different types of cancer or rehabilitation from surgery. All are singular initiatives and have major transformative capabilities. Thus, the programme contributes towards bettering the innovation ecosystem, while promoting the improvement of people’s health.

The 2017 call for applications has been opened to research centres, universities, foundations and hospitals all over Spain and Portugal, but work is being carried out on expanding it to other countries which will make it a leading programme in Europe.