ExSACT, which is part of the ATTRACT initiative, is one of the eight funded projects under the Socioeconomic Studies that focuses on exploring the effect of the state administration on financing research, research/technology infrastructures and intellectual property rights. Its purpose is to develop the procedures for more efficient and longer-term cooperation of companies with research organizations, in particular for the ones receiving possible state aid.
This project is led by the Jozef Stefan Institute in Slovenia in partnership with the Faculty of Information Studies in Novo Mesto in Slovenia too, and as a part of its study, the ExSACT team has conducted semi-structured interviews with the coordinators of four of the ATTRACT R&D&I projects to raise some insights and explore more about them and their relation with their partners, especially the management of the intellectual property.
“The interviews with the research organisations and companies gave us a good insight into their experience with intellectual property management, R&D collaboration, and spin-out creation in relation to the state aid rules. Perspectives from academia, as well as industry, were valuable for our analysis and preparation of recommendations”,
Tomaž Lutman, coordinator of the ExSACT project.
The first interview was made with Dr Pepijn Beekman, coordinator of the UNICORN Dx project and Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Occam Dx, a spin-off from the University of Twente, Netherlands, which is one of the partners of this ATTRACT project.
Get to know more about the UNICORN Dx project:
Interview with Dr Pepijn Beekman
ATTRACT phase 2 project: UNICORN Dx
What is the UNICORN Dx project about?
UNICORN Diagnostics is a merger between different biosensing platforms which are all used for diagnostics. In the Netherlands, my company Occam Dx (previously ECsens) together with the university developed a technology for detecting single particles like viruses or bacteria. In a collaboration that was part of a different ATTRACT project, an Austrian university in Linz (Johannes Kepler Universität Linz), and the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France and Tokyo developed a very sensitive method for sensing local molecules like enzymes and proteins. UNICORN Dx aims to combine these two modalities into a single platform because with it you could potentially measure almost anything. Additionally, this will add dimensionality to the information and make it much more useful for clinicians.
What is the role of the partners in the project?
I will start with myself. I am the coordinator on behalf of Occam Dx, a spin-off from the University of Twente, Netherlands that was established based on the technology developed in ATTRACT Phase 1. The job of Occam Dx is to set up a value chain around the upcoming new technology so that when it is developed, we can accelerate its implementation. To achieve that, we talk to product developers, clinicians, and all kinds of stakeholders to make sure that we have a good business case, and that we have all the sources and requirements ready to get this technology to the market as soon as possible.
Then there is the University of Twente. Its job is to do more fundamental research in order to figure out how to combine these two technologies so the TRL of the two separate technologies is more advanced. The combination of both is currently in sort of the experimental conceptual stage, although we made some nice advancements. The university is currently working on device integration research, such as clean room fabrication, packaging, and microfluidics, and CNRS and JKU are looking at the combination of the two sensing modalities.
Lastly, there is a partner that I have not mentioned yet, and that is LabMicTA, which is a microbiological centre that is responsible for the diagnostic testing of around 1,000,000 Dutch inhabitants. They are currently not very involved but will be at more advanced stages, as they will take a more active role in the implementation of the technology.
How did you establish connections with your partners?
We had a connection with LabMicTa and the clinicians from the previous project. In Twente, the region in the east of the Netherlands where we are from, there is an active promotion to enhance the connections between academia and clinical users. We had a connection with the university because we split off from there. Within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie network, one of the professors from Twente University collaborated with one of the professors from Austria, and we realised that there was a good match between our ATTRACT phase 1 technologies. After that, we got in contact, and we started brainstorming about possible synergies because we were very interested in writing an ATTRACT project together.
What is your plan for intellectual property management? And which forms of intellectual property do you foresee to be created in the project?
We are working on different kinds of applications of established technologies in the product, which are not very patentable and will remain secret. Our strategy there is to only involve the truly urgently required people. Of course, our technology which is the result of ATTRACT phase 1 is patent-protected. We applied for patents in China, India, the US, and Europe. Some of those have been granted.
We also filed for a trademark with a brand of our company. But most interestingly, the future is to a large extent yet unknown. I know that CNRS is considering applying for a patent and is in consultation with its advisors. We all agree that once something interesting comes out, we will take a look at our respective contributions and then consider an IP strategy. But currently, there is no customised plan yet because it requires more rigid data.
Here you can find the full interview.
For more information: visit the ExSACT project site.