Today few people seem to question the importance of investing in science and innovation. This concept is not only obvious to economists from European institutions or scientists and inventors from all types of entities, but to society as a whole which understands that innovation and knowledge are the key to helping us face the future.
This same belief has formed the core of the company BeAble Capital since its creation and it has also made this concept more accessible to society. Or more specifically, to the scientific community since it focuses on choosing companies or projects in the field of science which respond to the unmet needs of our society, as well as supporting them in their early stages of development to thus help them enter the market.
At BeAble Capital, Cruz Mendigutía is responsible for searching for and assessing technologies for their technology transfer and investment. In this interview, she speaks to us about Spain’s first private, independent technology transfer fund which focuses on industrial high-technology.
BeAble Capital and its commitment to science
How did BeAble Capital come about?
BeAble Capital arose from the natural and necessary evolution of BeAble S.L., founded at the end of 2008 with the aim of transferring disruptive technologies generated by science to the market by creating industrial technology-based companies (TBCs) that are internationally competitive and do not take capital away from research.
BeAble has always believed in the value of science and the need to change Spain’s productive framework, committing to the creation of industrial TBCs to generate skilled jobs, invest in R&D and create value.
Could you tell us about the prior experience of any of the founders and why BeAble SL was created when it was?
The concept of BeAble arises from the combined experience of its founding partners, Almudena Trigo and David López. Almudena, a telecommunications engineer with a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and extensive experience in research and technology transfer, has first-hand knowledge of the existing constraints in making science reach society. David López, on the other hand, also a telecommunications engineer, is specialised in analysing and launching new projects in the market, attracting investment, and channelling funding. Thanks to their skills and experience, both founders complemented each other perfectly and were able to bring the BeAble concept to life.
At the beginning, we modestly invested the partners’ capital and served as advocates for these companies in order to orient them to the market and search for business models and niches where the added value of their technologies would be maximised.
The problem that we faced was that these developments take time, and we were unable to find investors who wanted to take on risk in the initial stages due to their lack of understanding of the science behind the projects. This limited our entry in the market since technologies of this type require investment in their initial stages.
It was at that point that we decided to become an investment fund with enough financial strength to be able to support our investee companies in every respect. We finally achieved this halfway through 2016.
What does the project entail?
BeAble became BeAble Capital in order to manage the private equity fund known as BeAble KETs Fund which is worth €35M, doing so with the same philosophy as always but with an investment capacity of up to €3M per company created. With this, we hope to show that in Spain it is possible to invest in science and this investment can be profitable.
What is “Science Equity”?
Science Equity is a new investment category, such as Venture Capital or Private Equity, which only invests its funds in companies or projects that are based in the field of science, have a clearly industrial focus, Deep Tech, and involve differentiated industrial property.
How does it reach investors? How does it differ from investors of financial products?
Investors that currently support Science Equity are mainly public investors such as the Spanish Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) and the Spanish Official Credit Institute (ICO). The European Investment Fund is another one of our investors. Private investors must commit to including investments of this new asset class in their portfolio; however, they are still not highly specialised because investment in Science in Spain is still in its early stages despite there being plenty of opportunities.
What profitability and term can be expected from these investments?
As a Science Equity Fund, we invest in early stages and we take on significant challenges, which is why we seek high returns.
With regard to the term, when entering early stages, we know that placing technology on the market takes time, so we make medium-term and long-term investments. The Fund has a term of 10 years which is divided into 5 years of investment and 5 years of divestment.
In addition to economic profitability, is there anything else you hope to achieve with this project?
We strongly believe that science is the key to solving current problems in society and it is essential to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Science Equity can have a great impact in this regard.
Moreover, creating technology companies of this type leads to creating added value employment, attracting talent, and forming partnerships with research centres, thus returning investment back to the institutions where it started.
Choosing TBCs: disruptive technologies that solve problems
What technology sectors may be of interest when investing in the coming years? Why?
The key to investment does not reside in technology sectors in particular, but rather in investing in technologies that solve existing problems and provide added value to the market. For example, as mentioned previously, we are greatly aligned with investments that are consistent with the UN’s sustainable development goals, such as clean water, affordable energy, health and well-being, etc.
How would you describe your current portfolio of invested companies? What do you expect from these companies?
Our company portfolio is very diverse. We have companies in the field of nanotechnology, advanced materials, photonics, etc., and each one is in a stage of development.
Our aim is to demonstrate that there are disruptive technologies which can compete on an international level and it is worth investing in their development and bringing them to the market. The success of these companies confirms this.
Can you give a specific example of an interesting company in your portfolio?
We have a very diverse investee profile. For example, BeAble Capital has invested in
- ADParticles, which specialises in the production of highly technological, multifunctional assets in the field of cosmetics, which creates a range of state-of-the-art mineral UV filters and pigments that are unique and specially designed to enhance and care for the health of our skin and the environment;
- Microbial Biosystems, which produces a biopolyester which may be used to replace petroleum-based plastics;
- Captoplastic, which has technology that enables quantifying and separating microplastics from aqueous flows with high retention rates, and
- Print 3D Solutions, which revolutionises the 3D printing industry thanks to its new filaments for ceramic extrusion.
How do you choose which projects will be part of your portfolio?
When selecting the projects that we invest in, we carry out very comprehensive due diligence in order to assess whether the projects meet our very strict internal requirements.
What does “accompanying” these projects entail?
Our company is a multidisciplinary fund that specialised in understanding science and research as much as possible so as to give 360° support to our investees in all critical aspects of companies of this type. Legal, scaling, business and industrial property aspects are some of the most important ones.
Industrial property in TBCs
What role does industrial property protection have in the success of these projects?
We consider industrial property to be a fundamental element of the companies that we create or invest in. In fact, it is a key point of due diligence.
Our aim is for scientific developments to be or be able to be protected either by a patent or a trade secret, such that it allows the company to compete by ensuring exclusivity against third parties and, therefore, company value.
How does ABG Intellectual Property collaborate with BeAble Capital?
We consider industrial property to be fundamental, which is why all the companies that we create have an intangible asset that must be managed.
At BeAble Capital, we closely monitor IP companies, but these companies are completely free to choose the attorneys that they want to work with. That being said, we always consider it necessary that they be assessed by experienced professionals and experts in the field.
In this regard, some of our companies work with ABG IP and we are very satisfied with the collaboration and work carried out.
Our IP attorney highlights: