Groningen’s formula for startup success: fostering university spin-offs

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Groningen’s formula for startup success: fostering university spin-offs

Although academic researchers have the knowledge and skills to develop potentially life changing products for patients, they often face unique challenges compared to other founders. Lengthy and expensive R&D costs often make VCs hesitant to invest. While spinoff founders are experts in their field, they often lack the necessary skills to build a successful startup, particularly in sales and business management. Finally, regulations and certifications often make it difficult to get solutions into the hands of the patients who need them most.

According to a recent report by, the Netherlands in particular is lagging behind other European countries when it comes to deep tech startups. Although they have a long shelf life (roughly 80% of all academic spinoffs created in the Netherlands are still active), less than half grow beyond 10 employees.

However, the Metropolitan Region of Groningen (including over 235,000 inhabitants and almost 90,000 students) has created its own formula by bringing together its universities, corporates, and local government policies to create a more effective incubator for academic spinoffs such as CC Diagnostics, PureIMS, and Organ Assist (acquired by XVIVO). In turn, this has helped make Groningen the fastest-growing region in the Netherlands in terms of job growth.

The Groningen startup ecosystem now sits at 3.6 billion euros, seeing major growth since 2019 (Techleap Startup & Scaleup Dashboard 2023), Groningen is a top innovative region in Europe (Regional Innovation Scoreboard European Commission), and one of Europe’s leading tech and health hubs.

This year at TNW Conference in Amsterdam, Stephanie Klein Nagelvoort-Schuit, VP of University Medical Centre Groningen, joined an expert panel on How to turn university spinoffs into a commercial success. As the overseer of new digitisation initiatives at UMCG, she shared her unique perspective on some of the challenges these founders face and advice on how to develop successful go-to-market strategies.

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TNW caught up with Klein Nagelvoort-Schuit after the session to learn more about how Groningen has built an ecosystem that stimulates academic spinoffs.

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