OptoCeutics. Photo: Joachim Rode

Record number of start-ups at DTU

Good role models and an active ecosystem at DTU helped to establish 87 new businesses in 2018. In 2017, the figure was 60.

Researchers and students at DTU established 87 start-ups in 2018. This is the highest number of new businesses ever established at DTU in the course of a year. The many start-ups offer new technological solutions that address societal needs or focus on fulfilling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The wide-ranging solutions include new inventions in, among other things, digitization, health technology, and social entrepreneurship. Examples are OptoCeutics, which hopes to reduce brain degradation in Alzheimer patients using non-invasive light treatment, NoBriner which offers low-tech, eco-friendly management of brine from the desalination process, and DrinkSaver, which has developed a round plastic rim to help disabled people drink without spilling.

Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science minister Tommy Ahlers is pleased with the development:

“It’s really good to see so many students and employees starting their own business—entrepreneurship must be visible and an essential part of our higher education. We are well on the way, but it’s my goal to have even more people realizing the dream of starting their own business. My vision is that in ten years we have ten new businesses with a turnover of over DKK 1 billion which began as start-ups from our universities and research environments.”

Researchers and students inspire would-be entrepreneurs
The report shows that students were responsible for 52 of the new businesses, while the employees accounted for 35. Speaking about the growth of DTU start-ups, Marianne Thellersen, Director for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Senior Vice President, says:

“We have excellent role models among DTU researchers and students who are leading the way in successful start-ups. Some of them are experienced entrepreneurs, while others are dedicated firebrands. Common to them is that they inspire colleagues and fellow students to begin establishing their own start-up.”

Active ecosystem
Marianne Thellersen believes that focus on innovation in the classroom, attracting serial entrepreneurs, and not least DTU’s active ecosystem contributes to the large number of start-ups.

The ecosystem includes small autonomous networks and established players such as DTU Skylab, the new research and education centre DTU Entrepreneurship, DTU Science Park, as well as research projects such as Open Entrepreneurship, which acts as a bridge builder between industry and academia. Among other things, the multi-branched ecosystem helps the entrepreneurs to create a market for their new technologies, strong teams, and promote their inventions through competitions such as Venture Cup and Danish Tech Challenge.

Growing ambition

The employees’ start-ups in particular fall into two major categories—health and hardware. One example is the start-up Polarize, which aims to improve cancer diagnosis by enhancing MRI scans. Many of the employees’ businesses are a natural extension of DTU’s research initiatives in—among other things—health technology and often they are driven in a strong collaboration with doctors, patients, or societal organizations.

The student-driven start-ups focus more on digital solutions—services such as the sale of products—and hardware containing substantial elements of electronics, software, chemistry or biology, One such example is Berring Data Collective which aims to produce more accurate oceanographic data to improve models and predictions for the marine environment.

The new student start-ups are characterized by a growing level of ambition says Marianne Thellersen:

“There are many serious teams that display a level of maturity far beyond what I would expect of people in their early 20s. Their projects are often very ambitious and actually require many years of industry experience and really solid funding in order to succeed. A large part of our mission, therefore, is to establish connections with the right people—something which typically happens via our network of players in the ecosystem.”