IXAnext program Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

A lot can happen in a year. For the IXAnext programme, the fledgling valorization programme of IXA (Innovation Exchange Amsterdam), the past 12 months have seen a number of initiatives go from idea to action, and even bear first fruit. That much emerged from a meeting to mark IXAnext’s first anniversary in December. An opportunity to assess the story so far, the get together was also a celebration of initial positive results.

The five-year programme sees IXA collaborate with UvA, AMC, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, VUmc and AUAS (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences), as well as the research institutes AMOLF and Nikhef and the City of Amsterdam. It aims to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship in education and research. In its first 12 months, it has laid the groundwork for a number of initiatives, including establishing innovation labs for physicists, setting up facilities for start-ups on every campus in Amsterdam, and increasing the reach and impact of entrepreneurship education in the city.

Value for society

“The big question is, how can we apply knowledge to society so that society gets the maximum value from it,” said Mirjam Leloux, who heads the IXAnext programme, speaking at the event.  She pointed out that, while Amsterdam is rich in knowledge institutes and research talent, their impact on the city – in economic but also in social and other terms – has so far not reflected their importance. “There has been too little investment in valorization,” she explained. “Of course, valorization happens already, but we now need to develop it further. With the IXAnext programme, we are setting out to add some of the missing pieces to the puzzle. We want the impact of the knowledge institutions to be much bigger and broader, because innovation is cross disciplinary. That calls for a fresh approach.”

IXAnext initiatives include the Physics on Demand and Demonstrator Lab programmes, which are intended to boost the innovation potential of the city’s high-level physics research groups. Physics on Demand gives companies access to the research talent and facilities of the institutes, while Demonstrator Lab provides the opportunity for researchers and students to develop and test their ideas for commercial potential.

Missing link

These initiatives have exceeded expectations according to VU physics professor Marloes Groot. From a long list, five projects have already graduated from the Demonstrator Lab and will become start-ups, she reported, describing the IXAnext initiatives as a missing link between science and entrepreneurship.

Reflecting on early successes like these, the City of Amsterdam’s Didier Manjoero said, “Building on the foundations laid by previous investments in tech –transfer and research valorization, we are trying to construct the house now – and this is work in progress. Amsterdam has ample possibilities for science or knowledge based valorization, yet people are not necessarily aware of these opportunities, even though the diamonds are virtually lying on the streets. He identified “knowledge-based start-ups and co-creation” as the two opportunities that the IXAnext programme should aim to encourage over the next four years.

Start-up ecosystem

The start-up ecosystem will be boosted by the Amsterdam Venture Studios’ initiative to bring an incubator to every campus in Amsterdam as part of the IXAnext programme, as ACE’s Erik Boer reported. “Amsterdam is indeed full of diamonds – the question is how to polish them,” he said. He explained that many Incubators are needed to serve Amsterdam’s population of 100,000 students, “but these need to be brought together on a programmatic level to avoid fragmentation.” A number of start-ups, including fledgling health company Caelus Health, have benefitted from the incubator initiative in the past year.

When it comes to encouraging student and start-ups, entrepreneurship lecturer Ingrid Wakkee outlined the importance of entrepreneurship education to the IXAnext agenda, calling for a new phase. A mentor pool for budding entrepreneurs and a case study bank detailing local, Amsterdam cases are among the resources now being built as a result of the IXAnext programme. The goal is to create more entrepreneurs, which will ultimately produce better start-ups, with the focus on reaching all students, not only those who study entrepreneurship.

Getting out of the classroom or lab is exactly IXAnext’s strength, according to Nina Tellegen, Director of the Amsterdam Economic Board. “Where the IXAnext programme can be a game changer is in getting all that talent out of the institutes and into society,” she said, adding that she hopes to see the initiative step into the spotlight as it continues its endeavours in 2018. “IXANext programme has an important role to play,” she said.

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