The quality of scientific research in Europe is undisputed, but turning academic research into viable businesses requires considerable support. The entrepreneurs in the biotechnology industry are mostly scientists and researchers from academic institutions and as such, lack the business skills and experience necessary to succeed. Realizing this need, many regions have implemented specific measures to support biotechnology start- up companies. Technology incubators specializing in biotechnology (bioincubators) have become a key instrument in the fostering of the biotechnology industry.
Bioincubators offer companies the expertise and know-how they often lack. The proximity to research and academic institutions has been noted as a characteristic of the biotechnology industry, since it is very dependent on a strong scientific base. The regional dimension of the biotechnology industry is therefore very dominant and the bioincubators act as an integral unit of this regional innovation system. The experience of the incubators is mostly with regional actors. The development of companies operating within one of these incubators is therefore more dependent on regionallybased capabilities. However, in today’s global economy, especially in knowledge-based fields such as biotechnology, start-ups are required to operate internationally from their very early stages in order to succeed.
The proposed scheme of the Bio-Link project was based on cooperation between five successful bioincubators across Europe including one from a developing region. The basic concept was that cooperation between successful incubators will allow start-ups to benefit from the expertise of the different incubators, thus increasing the array of services available. This included exposing the startups to leading VCs and other financing sources, access to leading scientists and experts, direct channels to leading IP and regulatory consultants, exposure to potential strategic partners, access to specialized equipment, etc. In addition, the international dimension of the scheme was intended to motivate the firms to operate in an international context from their very early stages while getting in touch with other client companies.