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How is a spin-off different from a normal business and what advantages does this bring?

Spin-off companies are intended to guarantee the economic benefits of the skills and findings gained from research, and embody the desire to use ULB’s scientific activity to create added value and launch new business ventures. Spin-offs make a firm contribution to both the job market and the economy, and are all the more promising when they have the potential to maintain or develop advanced technical skills while preserving close ties to the University and its cutting edge research.

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Can a researcher become an entrepreneur?

There are different kinds of entrepreneur. In general an entrepreneur is a self-starter, someone who is able to identify and seize opportunities, is persuasive, and able to plan for or manage the risks inherent to their project. The list of personality traits for entrepreneurs is long: flexibility, creativity, self-confidence, leadership, conscientiousness, solution-focused, decisive, a team player... the list goes on.

In addition to these qualities, it is essential that an entrepreneur be 100% committed to their project, and is willing and able to persevere in order to achieve the desired results. Inevitably, there will be peaks and troughs throughout the life of the business, making it imperative that their motivation is solid. And where does this motivation come from? Personal accomplishment, freedom, the desire to set out alone, social recognition... and the financial rewards of success.

For researchers who decide to create a spin-off, it is important to decide early on exactly what role they wish to play in the new company. Will they leave the university? Or act as an occasional consultant? Will they be the boss (e.g. CEO)? Or occupy a more technical post (e.g. CFO)?

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Who holds intellectual property rights for spin-offs?

When creating a spin-off, a licensing agreement is signed between the company and the ULB. Under the terms of the licence, the university grants the spin-off commercial rights over the resulting intellectual property, meaning that the intellectual property remains under ULB ownership.

The licensing contract specifies what exactly is licensed (technology, skills, software, database, etc.), sets the financial conditions and defines operating conditions (exclusivity, applications covered, sub-licensing conditions, responsibility for maintaining IP protection, methods of analysis, exit clauses, etc.).

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In order to use a technology for commercial purposes, is it necessary to license a technology or create a spin-off?

Governments and university management, especially in Europe, tend to favour the creation of high-tech companies rather over strategies based on licensing. This is in part explained by the increase in venture capital put forward by governments to promote the creation of new companies. The main issue, however, remains knowing which is the best channel for transferring your technology to the market. The answer to this depends on the technology in question, the market, the skill-set of the personnel and researchers responsible for the invention, the availability of venture capital and, last but not least, the institution’s strategy.

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Creating a spin-off
Technology Transfer - Université libre de Bruxelles
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Creating spin-offs

Spin-off companies are intended to secure economic benefits from the skills and findings gained from research, and embody the desire to use ULB’s scientific activity to create added value and launch new business ventures.

Spin-offs make a firm contribution to both the job market and the economy, and are all the more promising when they have the potential to maintain or develop advanced technical skills while preserving close ties to the University and its cutting edge research.

Each new company represents a unique challenge. There are nevertheless a number of clearly identifiable steps between the ideas stage and the creation of a spin-off. At the TTO, we have identified seven such steps:

Creating a spin-off

The ULB has, for a long time now, encouraged initiatives aiming to facilitate the creation of spin-offs, and has provided the following facilities:

  • Three incubators (EEBIC, Solvay Entrepreneurs Accompagnement, and Biopark Incubator provide training, coaching, and consultancy to guide researchers through the process of creating a business.

  • The Theodorus investment fund, created in 2006 and specially dedicated to creating spin offs, invests and sources funding during the launch phase. ULB - Theodorus Community