Q&A  | 

Xavier Aldeguer: how to boost tech transfer

Tags: 'Digital transformation' 'Innovación pública' 'Inteligencia artificial' 'inteligencia artificial' 'Tecnología'


Reading Time: 10 minutes

Xavier Aldeguer is the director general of Knowledge Transfer for the Regional Government of Catalonia. With professional experience as a doctor, researcher and entrepreneur, he believes that Catalonia has a powerful technological and knowledge system that must be channelled towards the real needs of society. Xavier reflects with The Collider on the role of the public authorities in knowledge transfer to businesses and the keys for optimising this.

What is your role as Director General of Knowledge Transfer for the Catalan government?

The Directorate General for Knowledge Transfer is a new area of management responsible for activating policies to boost knowledge transfer. During the previous term, the state of research in Catalonia was reviewed along with all the agents involved, and it was seen that, despite reaching an adequate level of research in relation to Europe, the transfer numbers did not add up. It was therefore deemed necessary to launch proposals that would help activate knowledge transfer. 

You are a researcher and a professor, and you have created a startup in the health sector. Why is the link between science and business important in innovation?

I think that innovation and knowledge transfer must form part of any research project. Research in itself and knowledge per se are important and must be the initial driving force, but the pinnacle of any research must be its real application to improve our society. Culturally speaking, this idea is rarely implemented. It is essential to convert research into products and services that add up to the real economy. This, in turn, makes the research system itself self-sustaining. There is not a bottomless pit of funds. 

What opportunities does the high scientific level of Catalonia have to offer the business ecosystem?

Catalonia represents 1.5% of the European population and our research system generates 3.7% of all scientific publications. This ratio places us at a similar level of production as that of the Nordic countries. We have 12 universities and 57 research centres in different fields, which is a fantastic window of opportunity for the development of innovation in our businesses 

What are the challenges of the current knowledge transfer and business innovation ecosystem in Catalonia?

We have a strong, mature knowledge system, but it does not reach industry. At times, we have been unable to channel the research capacity sufficiently or link it to the innovation needs of our businesses. The opportunity is there, but we must stimulate it yet further. Public investment must be increased, and it must be supplemented with private investment. We must use the potential of the ecosystem and boost it among all the agents involved. 

What aspects or mechanisms must be fostered to boost knowledge transfer?

A superstructure must be generated that coordinates the transfer offices in Catalonia and raises awareness of the technology it offers. Another aspect to be fostered involves strengthening the Barcelona brand as a European tech hub.

The authorities must help pre-seed projects with public-private funds, and direct them towards industrial challenges to attract more venture capitals. In fact, this is the goal of Fita, the public-private fund created by the Catalan government and that is to invest €60M in early deep tech over the coming 5 years.  

We must also make sure that tech centres play a clearer role of supporting businesses in search of innovation, and ensure better communication between research centres and businesses. Another aspect to consider involves increasing incentives to encourage researchers to become involved in transfer projects.  

What is the future of deep tech in Catalonia?

Catalan deep tech will only survive if it is capable of generating innovative and disruptive projects that find an ecosystem in which they can be applied. 

The potential of creating a ground-breaking Catalan technology network is there, and we hope it will find its footing over the next four or five years. 

Which technologies could be considered strategic in the medium term? And in which sectors of application?

The areas and sectors of technology in which there is technological potential are biomedical technology and tech med, the agri-food sector, digital commons, deep tech in research into renewable energies, climate change and the reuse of waste, cybersecurity, photonics and nanotechnology, urban development, mobility, and materials. 

Is the model for the creation of university spin-offs the most efficient in promoting deep tech in the business sector?

It is one of the most standardised models for transfer, and we must maintain and optimise it to ensure startups can develop in the marketplace, but it should not be the only one. Another model should also be used in which businesses in search of some kind of innovation reach out to research centres and universities. 

What are the advantages of The Collider and what is your relationship with the programme?  

The Collider plays several key roles: the training of tech transfer offices and the detecting of all pre-seed projects with transfer capacity in our system. The programme works on their incubation, support and direction towards market challenges.  

The Collider is an essential supplementary structure, one of our instruments to active the transfer policies of the Regional Government of Catalonia in a standardised, agile manner. 

Do you have any quotes that define the way you work or live? 

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”, by Neale Donald Walsch. I think being ready to take on challenges that take you out of your comfort zone is important for everything in life 

What professional advice would you give to a scientific entrepreneur?

Don’t give up and believe in what you do. And at the key time of research development, use the support of the system to direct the project towards a social or market-related challenge. This direction will ensure the technology is useful and applicable in society.