Alessandro Grandi (PNICube): We’re bringing Open-F@b Call4Ideas to universities

This year Open-f@b Call4Ideas opens up to universities thanks to the partnership with PNICube. The collaboration will support technology transfer, a strategic element to identify and develop innovative business ideas. Let’s meet the President of PNICube, Alessandro Grandi.

Published on 02 Dec 2021

This year, for the first time, Open-f@b Call4Ideas, the contest promoted by BNP Paribas Cardif in partnership with Insuranceup, enters universities thanks to the partnership with PNICube, the network connecting incubators and Startup Cups, the business plan competitions of Italian universities.

This important collaboration will make it possible to enhance the talents and experiences of university research in the innovation activities of BNP Paribas Cardif and thus support technology transfer, a crucial driver for identifying and developing innovative business ideas. 

PNICube was founded in 2004 to follow up on the experience of the National Innovation Award (“Premio Nazionale Innovazione”) – launched for the first time the previous year – and the IUNet project, financed by the Ministry of Productive Activities and managed by the Association of University Incubators (AIU), to create a network connecting university business incubators. The association brings together university incubators and business plan competitions in Italy, with the aim of promoting and enabling the development of new businesses from applied research. 

With nearly 20 years of existence and nearly 50 member universities, PNICube is committed to facilitating technology transfer. Yet, how does it specifically transform research into innovative ventures?

We met with the president Alessandro Grandi, professor of Economic and Management Engineering and president of AlmaCube, the incubator and innovation hub of Università di Bologna. 

Let’s start from the beginning: how does PNICube work? 

PNICube works relentlessly to foster the development of best practices to support the identification and early stages of development of business projects born in academia as a result of research. The most striking proof of its work is represented by two annual events: the National Innovation Award (PNI) – this year in Rome on November 30 and December 3 – and the International Master Startup Award (IMSA), in Naples on September 23. 

These two awards focus on different phases of business development. 

The PNI is designed for projects at the early stage. Actually, it is the last step of a 12-month path started at regional and local level: universities and institutions join forces to support business projects within the universities. Among these, 60-65 finalist projects qualify for the Prize each year. 

IMSA, on the other hand, is aimed at already launched startups, 3-5 years in age, typically having already participated in PNI. The aim is to identify and reward startups with an interesting and significant development path, having already achieved important market results. 

How are the participated projects chosen? 

The recognition is done in two directions: from the top, thanks to the scouting activity of the Tech Transfer Offices (TTO) and from the bottom, through personal applications. 

Tech Transfer Offices, dedicated departments now available in all Universities, are responsible for identifying among the University’s research groups technical and scientific results that can be translated into business projects with products and services. 

On the other hand, researchers and professors who come to a significant result in their research (often supported by a patent) can apply to enhance and realize it. 

This year PNICube is a partner of the eighth edition of BNP Paribas Cardif’s Open-f@b Call4Ideas. Why this choice? 

We have always worked with industrial partners and institutional investors. To thrive, the projects we support need a whole series of resources (know-how, management, finances), which can be found with the support of universities, but above all by interacting with partners such as Ventures Capital, which operate in the early stage, and industrial partners, which consider the startup an opportunity for open innovation – such as BNP Paribas Cardif. 

We think that the Open-f@b Call4Ideas contest is a step in the right path, vital for effectively responding to urgent challenges. 

Thanks to this partnership, BNP Paribas Cardif can extend the call to younger people, in a wider spread on the territory, while PNICube will take part in the selection of some startups involved in the Digital Battle, and will be present with a member in the panel of judges of the final. 

Why is technology transfer an important driver for innovation? 

We all face extremely relevant challenges for our economic system. The answers to these challenges come from many fronts, and the tech-science-based startup front is the one from which we can expect the most disruptive responses, which can bring real change. 

Large organizations can drive great resources, yet still need the spark of new ideas. 

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