MetGen Oy is a Finnish biotechnology company which has, to-date, received more than EUR 10 million as grants from the EU Horizon 2020 instrument for 11 different projects. MetGen combines synthetic biology with chemistry and process engineering. The company creates industrial solutions which utilise more sustainable bio-based raw materials. MetGen has received EU funding via several Horizon 2020 instruments.
The first EU funding instrument which boosted their growth was SME2 in Horizon 2020 (equivalent to EIC Accelerator in Horizon Europe). This was followed by funding via Horizon 2020 Fast Track to Innovation FTI (not available in Horizon Europe) and Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking, BBI JU (equivalent to CBE in Horizon Europe).
Commercialisation is challenging in the biotechnology sector due to long time frames, significant capital requirements, and the high regulatory barriers associated with products of biological origin. The process of developing a research discovery into a commercial product can be enormously complex and expensive, especially in the start-up phase of any company.
In the start-up phase of MetGen, EU funding appeared to be suitable instrument to support the growth of MetGen towards higher TRL (Technology Readiness Level), and thus facilitating commercialisation of the company’s research discoveries.
EU funding suited perfectly for accelerating commercial innovation which goes beyond investors’ capabilities. It provided a catalyst for building business value chains. Another important feature of EU funding is networking opportunities with other companies. MetGen considers networking as the best way to develop their business and this has resulted to several valuable business leads.
One of MetGen’s main success factors in securing significant amount of public funding has been careful selection of projects strategically aligned with company’s own commercialisation plans. MetGen recommends to have the full value chain mapped before looking for suitable partners with unique expertise and forming a consortium. This is an important way to steer the project towards the right direction from the start, securing that the value chain will be fully implemented and addressed. MetGen encourages to be active in consortium, provide ideas and take the leading role. The more you contribute to the consortium, the more you gain influence.
Running several projects simultaneously – eight projects at best – requires resources also in the company: currently there are two people responsible for the EU administration at MetGen. It is important to have a person with solid technology background together with a commercial expert for cost calculations and dissemination. Amendments for grant agreements and audits require work as well.
MetGen advises to take coordinator’s role in the consortium only if the company has resources and capabilities to properly conduct the task. Even taking a leading role in project’s work packages requires resources and effort and a company has to be ready for that.
Matti Heikkilä, MetGen COO, with MetGen’s lignin-based products
MetGen’s pilot fermentor