The University of Tartu ventures out into the business world, Source: Neil Howard, on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

University of Tartu starts an innovative model by becoming an investor

University of Tartu starts an innovative model by becoming an investor

This will help fill the gap between research and entrepreneurship

Today, 3 June, Tartu’s municipal website reported that for the first time in Estonia a university has agreed to become a shareholder in a start-up company after the University of Tartu signed an agreement with UP Catalyst to that effect. By dipping its toes into the private sector, the academic institution aims to accelerate the promotion and application of research results in the real world.

What the Estonian university will invest is not financial, but, rather, intellectual capital. For this purpose, the academic body has created a business arm, called UniTartu Ventures.

"We created a model where the university transfers intellectual property to UniTartu Ventures, which in turn transfers it to the start-up and receives a stake in the company. As an active investor, UniTartu Ventures will continue to advise on the company's development after the transaction," explained Mart Maasik, Head of Investment at UniTartu Ventures.

Closer connection between economy and science

Research and innovation often happen in universities, in fact, this is the purpose of the existence of any academic institution, apart from providing education and training. UniTartu Ventures, a private limited company owned by the University of Tartu, was established a year ago with the aim of investing the intellectual property created by researchers in science and technology-intensive companies.

Starting a research business is often seen as the end of research, but in business terms, it is just the beginning of a new journey. The goal of UniTartu Ventures is to contribute to the continuation of cooperation with the university, with research and development, after the start of the company and the involvement of the initial investment. In this way, everyone involved wins and the knowledge-intensive business grows. 

UP Catalyst, the other signatory of the agreement, is a start-up turning the CO2 from heavy industry emissions into valuable carbon nanomaterials and graphite for use in batteries and accumulators. The investment round ended only recently, during which time investors injected more than two million euros into the company. According to the company's manager Gary Urb, the transaction with UniTartu Ventures will increase the company's credibility mainly in the eyes of investors. 



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