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Dr. Ignasi Belda

CEO of Intelligent Pharma and 2008 BioEmprenedorXXI Prizewinner


Often, scientists working or studying in universities or research institutes would like to be able to transmit advances to the general public quickly and directly. This is even truer when the breakthroughs are related to topics of such importance as health and well being.

Achieving this from the academic world is normally a complex process with a number of obstacles. Some of the reasons for this include: universities’ limited ability to raise funds; the academic, and not applied, orientation of basic research; and the lack of market focus that is common in this environment. These are all intrinsic, inevitable and, even, desirable parts of the academic world. Which is why, when scientists want to apply their research and commercialize new products or services that may improve general quality of life, they are often forced to carry out these initiatives through private companies, which in most cases are founded by the researchers and scientists themselves.

Founding, administrating and managing a company isn’t a difficult task, it’s just different from what scientists are used to doing. In fact, I always like to use the example that if a scientist was able to learn how to solve differential equations while at university, they won’t have any trouble learning to calculate a company’s EBITDA. But someone has to show them how to do it first.

Of course, every sector has quirks that make it unique. But despite these differences, business schools have developed study plans to train executives and managers who are capable of adapting their knowledge to the business in question. However, it is generally agreed that the life-sciences sector has the most marked differences with other sectors, making it absolutely necessary for executives and managers in this area to receive specialized training.

In fact, financial experts who studied at the best schools in Europe find it difficult, if not impossible, to imagine how to manage the finances of a company that has no turnover for seven years but receives one, and only one, multi-million-euro invoice on the eighth year (which is a typical case for biotech companies that develop drugs and license them after phase II clinical trials). The same holds true for marketing, human resources, and even knowledge management.

For all the aforementioned reasons, Catalonia needs an initiative to advise and aid executives specializing in the life-sciences sector. This action is an essential part of achieving a total cluster. The BioEmprenedorXXI initiative aims to do precisely this. Moreover, by taking entrepreneurialism and start-ups into account, which have driven this country’s economy and society for the past 400 years, the BioEmprenedorXXI initiative connects this tradition with new knowledge coming out of universities and research centers around us, all of which are top-notch scientific centers. The combination of these factors has led to the challenge of making Catalonia one of the top biotech centers in the world. Initiatives like this one, which strengthen new knowledge-based economic sectors, will play a predominant role in our recovery from the current global recession.

With that, it is my pleasure to announce the second edition of the BioEmprenedorXXI program to aid and advise biotech companies. This year, Biocat is directly involved in the management and promotion of the BioEmprenedorXXI program, consolidating this unique initiative’s leading position. Finally, one piece of advice for bioentrepreneurs: “given the complexity and super-specialization of our sector, we can’t try to know everything. It’s more important to be aware of what you don’t know, because only then can you hire someone, quickly and efficiently, to make up for your shortcomings.”

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