Jorg Kop is the Managing Director of UtrechtInc. We asked Jorg what he, in his role as managing director of an incubator, does to achieve more impact from science, and which points he thinks the movement 'Science to Impact' should tackle.
What does UtrechtInc do?
UtrechtInc is the startup incubator of Utrecht University, UMC Utrecht and Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, and it helps researchers and technology entrepreneurs from the region to successfully set up a company. Our focus is on the early-stage tech startups; we enable them to grow further into the next phase. We offer this target group tools, a valuable network of fellow entrepreneurs and experienced mentors (currently 150).
Universities should bring in as many people with entrepreneurial expertise as possible and let them examine, for example, which IPs have been applied for already. And ensure that venture builders come into contact with researchers and are able to convert initial ideas into business plans. We could achieve so much more than is currently the case.
Jorg Kop (UtrechtInc)
Which tools do you offer?
For the researchers, we provide tailored Science Validation programmes, which can be easily followed alongside a university career. For tech entrepreneurs, we offer brief, more condensed sessions that focus on the risks of their business.
We organise all of these different programmes under one single roof. This has the advantage that it is much easier for researchers, investors and starting entrepreneurs to meet each other and exchange ideas. These meetings often quite naturally give rise to chemistry between the different parties!
As an incubator, how do you contribute to Science to Impact?
Our open innovation system allows us to carefully listen to what a starting entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial researcher genuinely needs. Do entrepreneurial researchers merely want to share their knowledge or do they want to become part of a future business? The challenge lies in getting that clear. During this process, it is important to be aware that the support provided by the incubator is not standardised and sometimes requires more time than estimated.
Furthermore, as an organisation, we encourage our staff to achieve tangible final outcomes. Instead of saying, “we’ll just wait and see who turns up”, it really helps our team if we define a clear purpose, for example that they need to have realised 30 successful startups by the end of the year.
Which role does UtrechtInc play in the incubator sector?
We’re one of the initiators of the 'Incubators United' initiative from Techleap.nl. This is a really valuable network because it allows incubators to exchange knowledge and experience. However, we’re still not data-driven enough. We should be exchanging far more figures with each other. One example is the number of people that participate in all of our programmes. Those numbers say something about the dynamics of the early-stage startup ecosystem in the Netherlands, and enable you to subsequently match your key performance indicators (KPIs) to these.
And what do you think must happen to achieve more scientific impact at a higher level?
Several things need to happen, and at different levels.
Let’s start by identifying the biggest obstacle, namely the culture within knowledge institutions. At present, this is very much focused on research and education. Valorisation has only been taken up as the third core task of universities for the past 15 years. This is also apparent from the budgets of knowledge institutions in which there is no structural position allotted to impact.
The second point concerns an opportunity, namely the formulation of KPIs. If you cannot express your goals in figures, then you’ll fail to obtain budgets for these. As far as I’m concerned, we should calculate how many entrepreneurial researchers and spinouts we want to deliver each year, allocate those across the various knowledge institutions and subsequently act in accordance with those targets.
And the third point, also an opportunity, is at a lower level but no less important: rolling out the red carpet for researchers with entrepreneurial ambitions. Smooth all the creases in the red carpet so that these people do not stumble as they make the transition from knowledge to market. I’d like to mention just a few of the creases that could be smoothed: ensuring that an IP contract is easier to organise than is currently the case, allowing researchers to build up their teams so that they can delegate on time, and linking researchers to the right financiers. And it is also really important that researchers can physically walk out of the building to familiarise themselves with the can-do attitude outside of academia. A mentality displayed in abundance at many incubators and other players in this field.
What do you think the Science to Impact movement should tackle?
It could initiate the discussion about all of the obstacles listed by me, but also by many of my colleagues. It is better if that is done by a neutral party that people listen to, as then the ball can really get rolling and improvements made.
I also see possibilities in jointly drawing up a definitive blueprint for more science-based startups in the Netherlands. However, that will only be realised if there is more room for experimentation. Universities should bring in as many people with entrepreneurial expertise as possible and let them examine, for example, which IPs have been applied for already. And ensure that venture builders come into contact with researchers and are able to convert initial ideas into business plans. We could achieve so much more than is currently the case. I’m really looking forward to bringing all of these people together to jointly create impact!
Jorg is involved in the startup world at several levels and helps ambitious entrepreneurs to build future-resilient companies. Jorg is Managing Director of UtrechtInc, the business incubator for early-stage tech startups with initiatives that help make the world a better place: e-climate, e-health and e-learning.
As one of the driving forces behind NL2025, he makes his knowledge, expertise and network available to nlgroeit, a platform for scalable entrepreneurs. He is the co-founder of SnappCar and has also invested in several startups and scale-ups. Before that, Jorg worked at traditional corporate companies in various c-level roles, both nationally and internationally.