A major problem encountered by NTNU-TT was the funding gap between high-potential NTNU research results and public or private funding opportunities. Projects without proof-of-concept or demonstrated scalability were not sufficiently de-risked to be attractive to industry or investors, nor were they sufficiently developed to meet the entry criteria of public seed programmes, i.e. with existing instruments there was no chance to unlock their societal potential.
NTNU-TT launched a new fund in 2011, NTNU Discovery, to help fill this funding gap. It is solely dedicated to financing early stage project development, in particular proof-of-concept, technology verification and scalability studies.
It was deliberately set-up as a not-for-profit fund, mainly because a profit-oriented design would have been much more complex to put into practice and it would have adversely affected the relationship with existing venture funds.
Moreover, the amount of money needed was not that large. For the NTNU- pipeline, around EUR 1-1.5 million per year was estimated. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), it was not possible to attract industry as sponsors, but local and regional banks, counties and the Norwegian government pitched in. For them, the fund presented an attractive opportunity to contribute to the creation of innovative products, companies, new jobs and associated societal value in their communities.