Transforming Latvia's Future through Young Entrepreneurship
The Technology Business Center is part of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA), an agency supporting systems and models for innovation, research, startups and more. LIAA identified a need for a more holistic approach when supporting startups, small and medium sized enterprises, as its goal was to have more businesses commercialize and grow. Out of this need grew the idea of the Technology Business Center. Initiated as an experiment, where research and development efforts are seen in tandem with business ideas, the project has created more sustainable and successful companies.
Triumph through Collaboration: Uniting Academia, Government and Industry
Following the success of the center, Innovation Norway meets with its head of operations, Andrejs Berdnikovs.
Andrejs Berdnikovs (TBC): "Initially inspired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we have been able to create a robust system for young entrepreneurs. By using the triple helix model, an innovation model where academia, industry and the government cooperate to foster economic development, young entrepreneurs have been enabled to take the step from research to commercialization."
The TBC is operating two different programs, Prototech and the Innovation Academy.
Through the Prototech program, the Technology Business Center support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by facilitating the prototyping of their product within state-of-the-art laboratories. This opportunity enables SMEs to significantly expedite their progress towards producing globally in-demand products with strong export potential. During the past two years, the Prototech program has supported thirty different prototypes.
The Innovation Academy is a pre-acceleration program designed for aspiring young entrepreneurs to venture with their global aspirations. The primary goal is to assist entrepreneurs with their innovative business concepts and to foster collaboration for them to pursue global competitiveness. The program is led by mentors, startup founders, and corporate innovation experts who boast international experience. Upon completing the program, the projects are well-equipped to secure investments and establish partnerships for the commercialization of their products.
Continuing Beyond the Grants
Andrejs Berndikovs (TBC): "Working with the Norway Grants has been crucial for our center. As a pre-defined project within the Latvia’s Business Development, Innovation and SMEs Programme, we would not have been able to conduct this experiment without the Norway Grants. Further, the flexible nature of the Grants are easier to manage than most public grants in Latvia. The Norway Grants are less rigid and take into account the flexibility that is needed when working with young entrepreneurs. Thanks to the Norway Grants, Latvia will gain a huge resource in its innovation ecosystem, not just during this Norway Grants funding period but also in the future."
The center has evolved into being a resounding resource and success, assisting young entrepreneurs. As a result of this success, the center will, after the conclusion of this funding period, be transformed into the Riga Technology Incubation Center. Still being part of LIAA, the center will be located at the Riga Technical University, becoming a permanent fixture in Latvia's innovation ecosystem.
Andrejs Berdnikovs (TBC): "The enhanced access to knowledge and funding will enable more Latvian businesses to grow, both in Latvia and globally. In addition, the continuation of the TBC will also create some new jobs and ensure the transfer of accumulated knowledge. We are now given more certainty in the future, knowing that our project will be extended."
Solving Global Issues with Entrepreneurship
When measuring the success of the TBC in general, there are different numbers TBC should achieve during this funding period. The fact that it has supported thirty prototypes is a good indicator of its success. Further on, there are a lot of promising technologies and businesses in the center's pipeline. One such company, FLUFFY, is doing great work for the green transition. FLUFFY has later on received funding from the European Space Agency, showcasing the growth opportunities for businesses in TBC's pipeline.
Andrejs Berdnikovs (TBC): "At the beginning of the TBC, we were considering two dimensions when we evaluated what projects should be supported in our center. One of the dimensions was the technical advancements and another was commercial potential. But some time ago, we also included a social, ethical, and green dimension to innovation and the evaluation of the projects. We changed our internal regulation, where we added two criteria on sustainability. The projects receive additional points in their evaluation if they contribute to climate change mitigation. The sustainability dimension of innovation is an important part of the technology and business development, and the innovation ecosystem."
The Technology Business Center is not just a center for innovation; it's a catalyst for change, blending the best of public institutions, academia, and industry, to drive sustainable, and groundbreaking innovation. Innovation Norway congratulates the Latvian Technology Business Center with their success.
About the Business Development, Innovation and SMEs Programme in Latvia
The Business Development, Innovation and SMEs programme is a business programme aiming to increase value creation and sustainable growth in Latvia.
The Programme is part of the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021. The EEA and Norway Grants aim at contributing to the reduction of economic and social disparities in the European Economic Area (EEA) and to the strengthening of bilateral relations between the Donor States (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and the Beneficiary States.