InnoStars Talks – interview with Dóra Marosvölgyi

-

One of the most important key values of EIT Health is the controus strive for excellence. This value defines the pillars of strategy, as well as the every day work of our teams. The latest proof for our endeavor is that Jumpstarter, our X-KIC program for ideathon phase startups received the prestigious European Association Award […]

One of the most important key values of EIT Health is the controus strive for excellence. This value defines the pillars of strategy, as well as the every day work of our teams. The latest proof for our endeavor is that Jumpstarter, our X-KIC program for ideathon phase startups received the prestigious European Association Award for Best Association Training Initiative. We asked Dóra Marosvölgyi, responsible Project Manager for the program, what are the ingredients of the program’s secret sauce.

  • You coordinate the Jumpstarter programme, which was recognized as the Best Association Training Initiative in Europe in 2019. What is so unique about this programme?

I believe there are three key factors that contribute to the success of the EIT Jumpstarter.

First of all, the programmes’ concept originates from the real needs of the innovation ecosystem of the Central-Eastern European Regions. Countries face similar challenges, they have enormous innovation potential, with bright scientific minds, but the research results are likely to remain within the labs. At the same time, there is a significant number of needs that have been unmet from the corporate side. To overcome these challenges, connecting the innovative solutions with the articulated demands from he industry, and increase the competitiveness of our region, EIT Health teamed up with EIT RawMaterials and EIT Food for a joint launch of EIT Jumpstarter. 

This unique collaboration of the EIT’s three thematic Communities is the second ingredient of our secret source of success. This scheme gives the participants a unique opportunity to validate their business concepts across the industries and the verify the real-life needs for the products. Participating in the programme opens doors towards the European markets and connects the best-of-the best teams with three EIT Communities’ large industrial partners (such as GE Healthcare, Siemens, Philips, Roche, Bosch, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Maspex, among others).

The third factor is the teams. Each year we look out for committed scientists working on innovative healthcare solutions, agri-food businesses or innovations in the raw materials sector, who are dedicated to bringing their innovations to the European markets. Based on their feedback after completing the programme, they value the structured approach of EIT Jumpstarter that helps them stay focused and validate their assumptions as quickly as possible. The feedback on the business model, advice how to start their business a long with the industry connections, were also valuable for them.

The last two and half years of conceptualizing and setting-up the programme was full of challenges and I am very thankful for the amazing team behind the Jumpstarter! Over 2017 and 2018, we trained and mentored 138 teams. Interest in our competition is growing, therefore this year we have extended a programme to allow us to train 90 new teams in 2019.

I have been personally motivated to see that other EIT Communities have also expressed their interest to join the programme, so from next year on we plan to extend the thematic scope of EIT Jumpstarter with innovative energy solutions, urban mobility and manufacturing.

  • You are also a Jumpstarter’ mentor. What is, in your opinion, the most common challenge that participants face? In other words, in which business areas are mentors mostly needed?

Participants are scientists or experts in their field. They not only innovate, they think out-of-the box in order to come up with a unique solution to a need they usually face on a daily basis. However, they tend to be too scientific when it comes to expressing their needs. They need to learn how to formulate their project in a way that is comprehensive for audiences with different backgrounds.

I often see the teams struggling with business concepts such as market segmentation, customer value proposition and financials. Early-stage start-ups experiment with their business model, their potential customers. The most we can do to help them is to give them the tools and support to validate their business model, their potential customers. The most we can do to help them is to give them the tools and support to validate their business model, conduct customer interviews, and at the earliest opportunity, find out if their business idea is worth pursuing or not.

  • If you could give one piece of advice to the Jumpstarter mentees, how would you get the most out of programmes like Jumpstarter?

#1: Validate your business concept! Go talk to potential customers to find out as soon as you can if you are on the right track.

#2: Make use of your mentors expertise. Do not be afraid to ask questions.

#3: Stay within the EIT Community network and maximise the opportunities it offers.

There are so many things to explore! If your idea was not worth pursuing after the EIT Jumpstarter, find an education programme that fits your interests and needs. If you come out of the programme inspired with a validate business model, than continue your start-up journey in the Accelerator programmes. Come to alumni events, networking events to get inspired, and pursue your idea further.

I truly believe that EIT Health offers wonderful opportunities to bring your idea to the next level. We leverage the expertise of a unique network of more than 140 industrial partners, universities and research organizations. We give grants to the best talents and start-ups and we do not accept equity in exchange. I wish I had such opportunities when I was at university!

  • What are some things people consider when trying to find a mentoring programme on the market?

Always start with defining your needs: where are you at your own start-up journey, what do you need for your next big step (is it money? Expertise? Facilities for prototyping? a test site?) and look for a programme accordingly. Check if the targeted programmes’ offerings are in line with your needs. What extra opportunities do they provide you? Do they take equity? If yes, what do they offer in exchange?

Especially in the early stages, when your main purpose should be to validate your business model quickly, you might want to cooperate with those mentors who understand your field of industry, therefore my advice is to look for thematic programmes of that industry you are serving. Thematic EIT Communities will gather knowledge of their market, international expertise and also network. In the healthcare domain, EIT Health is the largest thematic network that can offer advice and connections with test sites, possible partners and investors later on, and also provide a soft-landing platform of you want to scale-up within Europe, and scale-out internationally.