Exporter of microbiological expertise to the world, Lab Impact Africa has achieved a lot after Helsinki Challenge. The team has founded a start-up, as well as creating international university collaborations and new jobs for researchers.
“We’ve noticed that there is plenty of demand for microbiology experts, and it is worth setting up a company in the field. At Challenge, we got even more excited about the idea that research can generate new commercial activity. We are now taking this message forward to other microbiologists and our students,” says team leader and microbiologist Christina Lyra.
The team wants to improve the conditions of microbiological research and export laboratory expertise around the world. At its best, the idea devised by the team at Helsinki Challenge will help detect epidemics quickly, and produce information about the microbiological quality of local food and water, and the antibiotic resistance of bacteria that produce illness. At the same time, Finnish expertise will become an export that creates jobs in Finland.
Researchers employed at a start-up
The team brings university expertise to the world with the help of their start-up company, Lab Impact Global. The start-up has found a home in Lahti, where they have received extra sparring and mentoring at LADEC’s idea accelerator.
“Without Helsinki Challenge we would not have founded a start-up. We are currently continuing its productization at another idea accelerator.”
The intention is to build it into a profitable business.
“We have our feet on the ground more now than during the Challenge. We have toned down our idea; the intention is to go to Finland’s markets first to commercialise microbiological research. Once we get the company running here, we will start to take our expertise abroad,” Lyra reveals.
In addition to the start-up, the Bionautit Co-operative founded by the team and other researchers has just struck a deal with a company in the bio industry. Bionautit will be doing laboratory research as a subcontractor for the bio industry company. Lyra thinks a big part of the credit goes to diligent networking at Helsinki Challenge. The team has succeeded in creating jobs for researchers at a difficult time.
“These are true glimmers of light at the university, in the shadow of large recent funding cuts. We have gone against the stream and brought about real activity,” Lyra rejoices.
A Challenge course for students
The team members put the lessons learned at Challenge to use in their own everyday life. Recently, Lyra held a “mini-Challenge” course for her university students, where the students got to solve present-day urban challenges using biotechnology. The purpose of the course was to find ideas for commercializing biotechnology.
“The ideas generated in the course have already awakened wider interest. One astonishing idea was self-illuminating urban plants, where a gene that helps them to generate light is transferred to the plants through gene modification. Illuminative plants bring safety to a city at night-time, for example,” Lyra envisions.
“The influence of Challenge is hugely evident in our work. All the way from all the new business ideas and teaching methods, to sharpening up our own scientific presentations. Challenge still influences us every day,” she continues.
Watch Lab Impact Africa team at the Helsinki Challenge PitchNight here and here