During the COVID-19 pandemic, Steven Scholte, co-founder of recent UvA spin-off PsyPhy, was presented with more room for explorative and entrepreneurial thought. Whilst the idea of a portable EEG had crossed his mind, it wasn’t until he obtained a NWO take-off grant when he and Bert Molenkamp developed the first versions of portable EEG devices. In doing so he recognized a significant gap in the market. This gap being the absence of EEG equipment tailored to support the needs of education and university research. Especially for students and faculties lacking the necessary resources or environment for EEG studies. Thus, Steven co-founded PsyPhy to address this challenge and at the same time created impact by valorising his research.
Going from concept to company is a team effort
Scholte observed that while there was substantial expertise in creating measurement tools, there was a scarcity of solutions for bringing such equipment to a broader audience. With the support of IXA-UvA, Steven’s ideas transitioned from concepts and pilots to the establishment of Psyphy BV. A company dedicated to making EEG technology accessible to educational institutions (watch video here). Steven mentions that IXA’s help was significant in several ways. First the acquisition of Proof of Concept (PoC) funding from the UvA Valorisation Fund), that is instrumental in advancing ongoing research efforts. Secondly, the assignment of a dedicated business developer, who aided in refining the business plan and helped as a ‘sparringspartner’ with big decisions. And lastly with the help of establishing the company, a BV (Besloten Vennootschap) that involves a lot of paperwork and specific knowledge. Skills that researchers generally do without.
Though, the portable EEG device itself isn’t a solution that filled the market gap; the accompanying equipment designed to support education and research is. PsyPhy focusses on enabling and enhancing education and research by offering a comprehensive and mobile solution. Often times, educational institutions lack the infrastructure or space needed for extensive EEG research. PsyPhy steps in to provide the necessary tools, ensuring that these institutions can incorporate EEG technology into their teaching and research. Not only providing hardware that is affordable, but also providing a context that lowers the necessary technical level to sufficiently use the equipment in research and education. Video PsyPhy
Striving for impact by engaging with the world around us
When discussing the importance of translating research into market success, Steven Scholte emphasized that valuable research doesn’t automatically result in a successful business case or company. Researchers face numerous challenges when attempting to commercialize their research results or simply make it available for society. This is where IXA’s support proves to be valuable. For instance, IXA assigns a business developer to co-create a business case together with the researcher. The business developer advices on funding options, possible partnerships, and on finding the necessary people to bring the idea to the market. In the end IXA is the partner to spar with and who will most likely help you get insight in the different options to valorise your research. It is seldom that research cannot be valorised, either with societal or economical benefits. IXA assists and supports researchers in navigating the path to commercialization.
But how can research be truly meaningful in today’s market? How can it create a lasting impact? Steven believes that meaningful research is only that when ultimately it creates an effect, e.g. make predictions and provide control, on something in the real world. He does not imply that all research should be applicable outside academia but that research should strive for interaction with the real world as well as act in the real world. When such a research line is a success, it becomes a question of where in society the effect can be utilized. In this way, meaningful research finds its purpose and impact to help to shape the world
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