What has the ATTRACT seed funding enabled you to do so far?
- Allocation of considerable time to perform undistracted research that otherwise would have followed the business model of universities or research institutes.
- Allocation of considerable time to settle business sustainably, learn about H2020 rules and setup a roadmap.
- Social media visibility and brand valuation.
- Access to otherwise-unaffordable simulation software and fabrication facilities.
- Access to graphene material and specialised techniques for testing optimised fabrication designs.
- Setting a characterisation method for prototypes.
What challenges have you faced so far?
- Challenges related to different expectations and interests of private and public institutions.
- Value chain flows bottlenecked by research. Partner “Graphenea Semiconductor” had to wait 4-5 months for fabrication to be ready. Once the prototypes were ready, different transfer techniques were tested and resulted in low-yield samples that required further optimisation.
Where does your ATTRACT journey go from here?
Optimisation of transfer technique and characterisation of prototypes are currently ongoing and the best results will be used in demonstrators to be showcased in ATTRACT’s Final Conference, technology fairs and to investors. We have met with 2 capital investment companies that might be willing to support us once the demonstrator is ready, and we have discussed terms with 2 business accelerators to be included in their business program. Most likely additional public funding will be necessary to push the technology to a higher TRL (display demonstrators with single-pixel addressing through an active-matrix backplane) and also to ease the risk fear from investors.
Sum up in two sentences the advantages of the ATTRACT Programme over other research funding schemes.
ATTRACT is an ideal entry-level program for startups that are not university-backed or have little experience with H2020 procedures: the immensely reduced load of bureaucracy has contributed to effective progress of the project, to an affordable learning curve of H2020 rules and ultimately to the consolidation of the business, which otherwise would have been delayed or implemented with unnecessary distractions.
Additionally, only few research schemes support high-tech startups with a 100% funding rate, and non-equity cash and upfront payment: few instruments give liquidity (e.g., bank loan) but do not accept risky research in high-tech startups; other instruments give non-cashable support or require large equity for limited funding (e.g., private-backed incubators); and the rest are non-specialised and would require large effort to fulfil their internal bureaucracy (e.g., public-backed incubators). ATTRACT had a great balance of specialised support and trusted delegation.