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29 : The socio-economic ambitions assigned to the PIAs (2)

29 : The socio-economic ambitions assigned to the PIAs (2)

Our universities are full of highly skilled persons but they rarely speak the same language as the industrialists but who rarely speak the same language as the industrialist. UTC however is an establishment where the gap is less wide than elsewhere, but we must create a limited number of forums for our exchanges so that the industrialists can “connect”; that indeed was why the SATTs were created”, notes Chantal Vernis, by way of an introduction.
The SATTs have their own capital assets (1 Meuros for SATT Lutech) and this enables recruitment of staff with double profiles (academic and industrial) in very specific sectors, with the capacity and talent to identify interesting research topics and to imagine “maturation” programmes to valorize such projects. The programmes must be designed so as to decrease the risk factors that inhibit industrialists in their capacity to innovate. “Maturation” is a process that aims at transforming scientific inventions into the socio-economic innovations stage, in other words, to have inventors and market-places come together. To achieve this aim, several unanswered question remain (technological and industrial feasibility, market position, economic viability, etc.) removing or assessing risks such that future industrial partners (entrepreneurs, existing companies) can join in for the follow up stages.
SATTs are private companies by law and serve as interfaces between public research and the socioeconomic world. In keeping with the current philosophy to encourage decentralization, SATTs are located by geographic logic and not by specialty. They constitute the new link between the clusters and the university poles of competitivity”, adds Chantal Vernis. Thus, the SATT Lutech enjoys a privileged relationship with Sorbonne Universités (cluster) and there is clear overlap of members of both entities.

SATT Lutech accelerates in 2014

SATT Lutech was created in early 2012 and has already invested 4.5 Meuros in 22 projects (figures as of end 2013) and has enabled creation of 2 start-ups. There are 17 new projects in maturation phases, 7 of which could leads to the creation of others start-ups. There are 69 projects undergoing initial design phases and assessment. “Currently we are analysing the “why’ and the ‘how’ we can/should accompany the projects to full maturation”, stresses Chantal Vernis. SATT Lutech has a financial potential amounting to 20.6 Meuros for the first 3 years and 73.1 Meuros are expected over a 10 year period. “If the objectives we set are reached at the end of the 3rd year, i.e., end 2014, then the following financial commitments will be taken”, adds Chantal Vernis.
To date, we have financed with our own funds all the maturation programmes. The amount of the financial outlay relates directly to the specific needs expressed in each project. The amount granted can run from 30 000€ to 500 000€. On the agenda of then next SATT Lutech investment committee, we shall present the first co-maturation scheme. This is a formula where industrialists can show interest from the beginning and elaborate the maturation programme with us, co-financing the work as it progresses – we think the formula will prove increasingly attractive. If the risk elements have been removed at this stage, the industrialists can then proceed to signing commercial licenses”.
This form of co-maturation will contribute positively to the SATT Lutech’s first objective – to be self-financed within 7 years. “At that horizon SATT Lutech will have transferred a sufficiently significant number of projects onto the industrial sectors that the revenues will be able to guarantee out capacity to invest in new programmes and enable the State to withdraw their contributions”, offers President Vernis. After two years getting into its stride, SATT Lutech is really beginning to accelerate in 2014, witness the number of licenses foreseen for end 2014 (25 to 40), the first 3 of which were already signed early 2014.

A contractual agreement between SATT -Lutech and UTC

The SATT Lutech and UTC have signed an agreement. “Every week, we meet with Bruno Bachimont, Executive Director for Research activities at UTC, who helped us gain a better understanding of UTC’s laboratories so that we could be more efficient is identifying projects that SATT Lutech could accompany in a maturation programme. We have a staff member present half-time in UTC premises and we are currently negotiating a similar contract with the Picardie Regional Authorities. UTC as you know is well implanted and involved in the Region, and this contract will help coordinate our support for local research effort”, adds Chantal Vernis.
The new UTC Innovation Centre also interests the SATT Lutech. “It is essential that we work coherently and in the same direction. By the end of the year, we hope to be able to handle all the projects and facilitate technology transfers”, estimates Chantal Vernis. One of the 22 projects currently maturing at the SATT comes from UTC. It is the IDCCM project managed by Eric Leclerc, based on research work done by the Microfluids and Cell Microsystems team of the UTCBMBI (Biomechanical and Bio-Engineering). The objective of the IDCC project (acronym for Integrated Dynamic Cell Cultures in Microsystems) is to propose an in vitro text to the pharmaceutical, cosmetics and chemical sectors on cells (primary human or animal cells, cancer cells, etc.) that reproduce the in vivo conditions thus avoiding live animal tests.
This system leads to test cost reduction, to improvement of their validity, limits animal testing, and allows for simulation of circulating blood circuits, allows also real time in situ analyses and last bit not least to work with human cells to make better in vitro/in vivo extrapolations. SATT Lutech has accompanied this project in terms of intellectual property rights, marketing and also in its technological development. The SATT financially supports the cost of complementary biological testing and the development of a more integrated version of the IDCCM platform. “We shall soon be assessing new projects proposed by UTC-BMBI and we shall shortly be approaching UTC-COSTECH”, notes Chantal Vernis.
UTC’s participation and presence in the SATT will increase over coming months, in close liaison with Bruno Bachimont. UTC is used to working with industrial partners, a rather rare situation but which makes for a very enjoyable collaboration. I also hope that we shall be able, as of this year, to approach UTC’s undergraduates proposing that they consider projects for corporate start-ups. Two graduates have already launched a start-up after maturing in the SATT environment, TEM Project in the field of musical creation. UTC’s students have a real role to play in these interactions”.

What exactly is a SATT ?

Positioned at the crossroads of research and enterprises, the SATTs (technology transfer accelerator business units) are new economic actors the aim of which is to raise the efficiency level of France’s research valorization mechanisms, helping notably to accelerate the transfer and subsequent use in the industrial sectors. SATTs intervene as service providers in terms of research valorization for their shareholders and for other potential clients. They also have financial means to support projects in a maturation phase. The operator is the National Research Assessment Agency (ANR). A SATT is a subsidiary company created by one or several HE establishments (universities and research establishments, with the assignment to ensure the interface between public laboratories and enterprises; their mission consists of ‘translating’ discoveries and skills existing in public research spheres into concrete applications that meet industrial/service sector needs. Their activities focus on registering patent claims, concept proving, launching start-ups, licensing, etc. The SATTs were created via the French Government programme Investments for the Future and have received 900 Meuros funding. Following a call to tender in 2010, 12 SATTs were established and 2 are being created at the present time (SATT Conectus Alsace, SATT Lutech, SATT Toulouse Tech Transfer, SATT Ile-de-France Innov, SATT Sud-Est, SATT Aquitaine Science Transfert, SATT Nord, SATT Ouest Valorisation, SATT AxLR, SATT Grand Centre, SATT Grand Est and SATT Lyon Saint-Etienne. (Currently being finalized: the SATT Paris Saclay and GIFT Grenoble).

Serving maturation of research