Estonia’s largest universities and science parks unite to support deep-tech business
The University of Tartu, TalTech, Tehnopol and Tartu Science Park join their forces to support the transfer of science to business. With the signed memorandum of cooperation, a common priority was agreed to create a platform to support the development of research-based entrepreneurship with a long development cycle. This will increase the added value of the Estonian economy and solve global problems.
Despite difficult circumstances, last year was a record year in terms of investing in start-ups – according to Startup Estonia, a total of 440.9 million euros was invested in start-ups. About 15% of this amount went to deep-tech start-ups, the lion’s share of which was Skeleton Technologies’ investment of 41 million euros. Despite the modest figures in Estonia, the investment environments and structural funds of the neighbouring regions are increasingly focused on supporting deep-tech companies, as they see great potential for increasing European competitiveness.
According to Indrek Orav, a member of the board of the Tehnopol research and business campus, there are several root causes of this problem in Estonia. Firstly, investors want the investment to earn a profit as soon as possible. However, deep-tech companies need a longer preparation period to enter the market and therefore make a profit later than other start-ups. Secondly, most investments are made in businesses that are well understood and experienced. However, there is little experience of investing in deep-tech companies in Estonia.
“Deep-tech companies have great potential to solve global problems and therefore it is essential to address the root causes. The platform created in this cooperation will help deep-tech teams to understand the content of their solution and its business potential, reach the right contacts and raise money, ”explained Orav.
“The University of Tartu has set a goal of actively contributing to increasing the added value of the Estonian economy. We see that knowledge-intensive companies are the ones that can contribute to it most effectively, ”commented Erik Puura, Vice-Rector for UT’s Mission Development. “Unfortunately, universities alone cannot support all development cycles of knowledge-intensive companies, therefore we highly value the support of science parks,” emphasized Puura, commenting on the value of the initiative.
Andrus Kurvits, a member of the board of Tartu Science Park, explains the need for a seamless cooperation model covering the entire country with the slow nature of the existing processes and the lack of target funding. “The city of Tartu and the University of Tartu together with other founders have supported us in every way, but we know that by putting our backs together with TalTech and Tehnopol we can create new synergies to create breakthrough innovations and support their development,” said Kurvits by bringing out the role of science parks to bring together companies, investors and customers.
According to Sven Illing, Vice-Rector for Entrepreneurship of the University of Technology, the goal of TalTech as an entrepreneurial and innovative university is to make the Estonian economy more high-tech and thus more competitive. “We see that for the development of deep-tech business in Estonia, there has been a lack of support measures as well as mentors and investors with a suitable profile. 95% of Estonian science-based companies have come from the science base of TalTech and the University of Tartu. We decided to join forces between the two universities and the science parks to provide the necessary support and innovation networks for high-tech start-ups. I believe that Estonia has the opportunity to become as successful in the world in terms of deep-tech business as our mostly software-based start-ups. ”
Universities and science parks signed a joint memorandum of cooperation to support deep-tech companies. On this basis, a coherent and long-term mechanism will be developed to support the emergence and development of knowledge-intensive teams to help them reach markets and investors more quickly.
The parties of the memorandum also launched a pilot program Põhjanael (North Star), which aims to support the commercialization of deep-tech technologies. Teams participating in the North Star go through a nine-month program to learn the basics of deep-tech business with the help of a team of experienced mentors. The aim is to create a new model of cooperation and share lessons learned with the community.
Tehnopol, one of the largest research and business parks in Scandinavia, aims to contribute to the emergence and growth of world-class technology companies in Estonia and to support their expansion into foreign markets. To this end, a comprehensive solution is offered from commercial real estate to need-based business development services in three focus areas: smart city, green technology and health technology.
Tartu Science Park has been home to technology- and deep-tech business for 28 years. The mission of Tartu Science Park as an innovation support structure is to support the creation, development and operation of science and deep-tech companies by providing infrastructure and business development services in the Tartu region. The silicon quarter business district of 12,000 square meters, operates more than 70 successful companies. The S2B Launchpad Incubator and Open Office is an environment where deep-tech start-ups can grow into internationally successful companies with the help of experienced mentors and the community.
The University of Tartu (UT) is the oldest and largest university operating in Estonia. 42 out of UT researchers are among the most cited researchers in the world and more than 14,000 students study here. UT has been actively involved in the development of research-intensive and high-tech companies since the late 1990s. Today, UT has 57 spin-off companies with more than 500 top specialists. The sales turnover of these companies is more than 40 million euros per year.
As the only Estonian university of technology, Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) is the flagship of engineering and technical education in Estonia. The uniqueness of a TalTech education lies in the synergy of technical, natural, precision, economic and health sciences, which contributes to the birth of new ideas. TalTech has initiated and participates in various activities supporting business and innovation (eg competition of business ideas, Adapter, Prototron), the aim of which is to support the entrepreneurship of students and employees, as well as cooperation with companies.