Theresia Arbring Sjöström, who is a postdoc in the Organic Bioelectronics group at Linköping University, has during the spring devoted herself to a slightly different activity than what she is used to. She has gained new perspectives and discovered an entirely new world, as she puts it. The startup world. Through LEAD's business development program BootUp, Theresia has taken a step to connect academia with entrepreneurship.

Theresia came into contact with LEAD through her Spinout Action Group at the Laboratory for Organic Electronics, where she learned that as a researcher you can receive support from LEAD. The same year, she had obtained a PhD in applied physics and had, as part of her doctoral work, further developed a bioelectronic ion pump. The technology, which is based on drug delivery through ion exchange membranes, allows small, charged drugs to be delivered using electrical control. This enables drug delivery to the exact location in the body, at precisely the right timing. In this way, very potent drugs can be used without risking their dispersal throughout the body, causing side effects, as pills or injections do.

With the help of VFT funding via LEAD, a market- and customer verification was initiated. The result showed that there was an interest and curiosity for the innovation, but that further deepening was required in the verification work. The next step was therefore LEAD’s entrepreneurship program The Summer Match where two students from Linköping University continued to explore the market. After a thorough handover, it became clear to Theresia that it was now time to give this a real chance.

– I had felt a frustration during my doctoral studies that I developed things that didn’t come to use. We developed technologies for our colleagues, but we found it very difficult to meet needs and solutions. I realized that I needed to start with the need and think differently. This was exactly what BootUp could help me with; to explore the market and the real need in a structured way.

Theresia understood that, given the technical complexity of the product, she had a lot to gain by investing her own time and commitment in the market verification. Suddenly, it was time; BootUp started. There was still a little frustration in her. It felt like a guessing game to understand the need. She wanted evidence and data. Theresia quickly learned that there were well-proven tools and methods for this, which she had the opportunity to use and practice at LEAD. Through the BootUp program, she received training in topics such as market segmentation, interview techniques, and value chain. As a common thread throughout the program, she got to practice pitching her innovation to stakeholders and investors. It gave her a basic understanding of business development that she now brings with her in her continued verification work after BootUp.

– With the new mindset that BootUp gave me, I feel that I make wiser choices when planning my research. Even as a researcher, you need to talk to the user and focus on needs-driven development. I previously felt that research and entrepreneurship were two completely different worlds. Now I have realized that they need each other.

Theresia now feels at home in both academia and the startup world. She encourages other researchers to consider their views on entrepreneurship; what attracts them and what prejudices they have. Completing BootUp and learning more about the startup journey does not mean that you close the door to a research career, it rather gives new perspectives that make you an even better researcher, she says.

– I will continue to conduct research in parallel with the business development. What I initially thought I was sacrificing has resulted in me getting so much more in return. There is no longer a conflict in me, it feels quite obvious to be on both sides. There is a need for people who are between these two worlds and serve as a bridge for important research findings to be put to use.