Notes from a trip to “The most startup friendly country in the world”
At the end of April, Karel Kubias (one of the partners of i&i Biotech Fund) and Jiří Moos (CEO of i&i Prague) attended an event in Riga, Latvia, called Roche Latvia Innovations Day. Here you can read their blog where they describe their impressions from the event and, more importantly, provide further evidence that the Baltic States can serve as inspiration for the Czech Republic. At least in terms of technology transfer…
At the end of April 2022, the Latvian representative office of the global pharmaceutical company, Roche, invited us as guests of the “Roche Latvia Innovations Incubator Day”. We gladly accepted the invitation as supporting and building technology transfer is in i&i Prague and i&i Biotech’s genes. It is commendable and positive (but not surprising) that Roche has decided to establish incubators in different territories to financially support primary research results and create an environment where innovative ideas can grow and mature. In Latvia, moreover, this initiative is closely aligned with significant state support.
Developing the knowledge economy
During the one-day event, two representatives of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (www.liaa.gov.lv) spoke, among others, about how the Agency supports innovation and technology transfer, increases Latvia’s attractiveness for foreign investors and, last but not least, introduced us to its support programs for startups. Additionally, we learned that: in 2021 Latvia had over 400 startups from different sectors (from Fintech to Medtech and Healthtech to Biotech); the entire country (almost one-fifth smaller than the Czech Republic in size) is divided into 11 regional incubators, each of which provides startups with pre-incubation and incubation programs. Latvia has a “Startup Law”, designed to support startups, which allows them to receive co-funding from the state for qualified staff as well as tax benefits.
However, the agency not only supports startups, but also the activities of entrepreneurs looking to develop new products or technologies in the form of Innovation Vouchers of up to €25,000. If you are interested in transferring your activities from abroad to Latvia and establishing a startup there, the Agency will arrange a visa for you. Thanks to all this, the Baltic country has been named “the most startup friendly country in the world” by Index Ventures.
At times, we felt like we were at a conference in Germany or Austria, where the state also strongly supports technology transfer and startups in general. But Latvia? The targeted efforts to promote technology transfer here have a quite prosaic reason, this country does not have a strong industrial base, so they are focusing on promoting technology transfer in order to create favorable conditions for the development of the knowledge economy in Latvia.
The meeting in Riga ‘one of the most exceptional’
As part of our contribution “What does your start-up need to be ready for investors?”, we shared our experience of the process of evaluating and supporting startups before i&i Biotech Fund decides to invest. We were delighted with the feedback from the audience who found our experience beneficial and did not hesitate to contact us with questions after the program. The full morning program can be viewed here. In the second part of the program, we were then introduced to the presentations of seven startups. Each of them received feedback from us and also recommendations for next steps. We continue to stay in contact with two of the teams and are considering investment in the future.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge the Roche team for the excellent organization of the meeting. In our professional lives we have made dozens, if not hundreds of business trips, and only a few have stuck in our minds for their uniqueness. We dare to say that this visit to Riga will be one of those exceptional experiences. And we must also admit that we were pleasantly surprised by the level of support the Latvian government is dedicating to technology transfer. Our country can take inspiration from Latvia in this respect.
Jiří Moos, i&i Prague (Executive Director)
Karel Kubias, i&i Biotech Fund (Partner)
Contact: Martin Kovalčík, firstname.lastname@example.org, +420 777 472 863