Six innovative projects at UPF will receive funding and support for their development thanks to the knowledge transfer promotion programme UPF INNOValora. The UPF Business Shuttle-Innovation Unit has published the selected projects for a new edition of this programme organised to help promising technologies and knowledge generated by university research reach the production phase.
Three of the selected projects come from the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (DCEXS), while the three remaining projects belong to the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DETIC). Each will receive 30,000 euros from the programme, co-financed by the Catalan regional government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). In addition, a specialized external mentor will be available to the projects for consultation throughout the period of their implementation.
In this third edition of the programme, the UPF Board of Trustees will cover up to 3,000 euros of the cost of the teams' transfer, innovation and entrepreneurship training, based on their respective needs, and will also award a 5,000-euro prize to the project considered most promising in terms of its focus and expected impact on the market.
Thanks to this support, researchers can develop proofs of concept based on their innovations to accelerate their development and determine whether or not their projects have the potential to be put into practice. The implementation period of the UPF INNOValora 2021 programme will begin on 1 May and has a maximum duration of eight months.
Minimally invasive surgery (such as brain surgery or the placement of aortic stents) is difficult to perform due to limitations regarding access, visibility and manoeuvrability. This project is for a training simulator based on techniques of medical imaging, artificial intelligence, digitization of data and mixed reality to enable surgeons to receive safe and realistic practical training for these kinds of operations.
Team: Mario Ceresa, Miguel Ángel González Ballester (head researchers) and Gemma Piella, from the BCN MedTech research unit (DETIC), in collaboration with a team led by doctor Elisenda Eixarch and the professor Eduard Gratacós, from Sant Joan de Déu Hospital.
Pathogens lead to the loss of 20% of fish populations in Spanish aquaculture facilities every year. With current infection monitoring systems, samples need to be taken from the tanks and sent to the laboratory, which is an expensive and inefficient practice. The aim of this project is to develop a system of biosensors capable of continuously monitoring pathogen levels and transmitting early warnings, without the need to take samples to the lab.
Team: Javier Macía (head researcher) and Sira Mogas, from the Synthetic Biology for Biomedical Applications research group (DCEXS).
It is estimated that around 30% of the livers rejected for donation in Spain could in fact be used. Today, the assessment task is performed by surgeons applying a subjective methodology, based on the visual analysis of the organs. With the aim of helping doctors be more efficient in the process of assessing livers that could be transplant candidates, this team is developing a tool based on artificial intelligence that analyses photographs of organs to help determine their suitability.
Team: Gemma Piella and Javier Vázquez (head researchers), of the SIMBIOsys and BCN MedTech research groups (DETIC), and Concepción Gómez and Itxarone Bilbao, from the Vall d'Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus.
Medicines derived from cannabis are highly effective but, today, their use is limited because of the adverse effects they cause at a cognitive level. Researchers, therefore, are developing a compound capable of blocking the harmful effects of cannabinoids while preserving their therapeutic capacity, which will enable the use of these drugs, which are so useful in dealing with problems such as chronic pain.
Team: Rafael Maldonado, (head researcher), Olga Millán, Miquel Martin, Beltrán Álvarez, Pilar Ortiz and Andrea Rodríguez, from the NeuroPhar research group (DCEXS), in collaboration with David Andreu and Maria Gallo, from the Proteomics and Protein Chemistry group (DCEXS).
This project is developing an intelligent assistant for music learning. Using real-time audio analysis technologies, motion-tracking sensors and artificial intelligence, the project aims to provide music students a real-time evaluation on their performance while they practice their instrument, assessing aspects such as movement, intonation or rhythm, among others, thereby helping them improve their performance.
Team: Rafael Ramírez (head researcher), Sergio Giraldo and David Cabrera, from the Music Technology research group (DETIC).
The proposal of this group is to use natural microbes from human skin and modify them genetically so they release beneficial compounds to be used in dermatological treatments. The researchers thereby hope to offer a more effective solution to dealing with certain age-related problems, as well as conditions like acne or dermatitis, for which there are currently no efficient and safe remedies.
Team: Marc Güell (head researcher), Nastassia Knödlseder, María José Fábregas, María Marín, Carles Taulé and Lourdes González, from the Translational Synthetic Biology research group (DCEXS).
The selection of the six projects took place on 22nd April at the end of the programme. The research groups had to defend their proposals by way of a 'pitch' to a jury comprising professionals from the areas of innovation, investment and knowledge transfer.
According to one of the jury members, innovation expert Tom Hockaday, the quality of projects presented at UPF INNOValora "is improving year after year", which is in turn a reflection of "the high research quality across all UPF's departments and the growing interest among researchers for technology and knowledge transfer".
The complete list of jury members is as follows:
- Tom Hockaday, CEO of the innovation consultancy Technology Transfer Innovation.
- Francisco Badia, member of the Grow Venture Partners investment fund and founding partner of the ImpulsetoGrow consultancy.
- Clara Campàs, managing partner and co-founder at the venture capital firm Asabys Partners.
- Elena Rico, managing partner at the asset management company Impact Partners Iberica.
- Luis Ruiz Ávila, CEO of the companies Leukos and RUTI Immune and mentor for the innovation network EIT Health.
- Luca Venza, director of technology innovation, transfer and acceleration at the IESE Business School.