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Christina Skjöldebrand | Viscosens

"To take your idea to the next level, you need thorough business intelligence and LU Innovation can help you to apply for funding for this. Then you also have to expect it to take time to get into the market and naturally it is hard to make ends meet at the beginning, so the holding company coming in as a part-owner saved us a lot."

 

Even though researcher Christina Skjöldebrand had previous experience and knowledge of starting and running a company, she emphasises the advantage of getting help from LU Innovation. 

– A company is not really a company until it starts invoicing. And there is a lot we got help with from LU Innovation; they helped us to move forward quite a bit so that our operations were up and running.

Measuring and developing healthy baked goods

Christina knew of LU Innovation, so she contacted them early on in the process. The project, which focuses on a new technology for measuring the health effects of food, received funding for verification and assistance with patents, among other things.

– I am very interested in using research in business opportunities. I am a bit of an entrepreneur and I thought it would be fun to see if this idea could work and whether the industry could use the technology.

Christina and her research colleagues Malin Sjöö and Elin Östman came third in the Venture Cup Syd 2010 competition with their business plan for a measurement technology for the health effects of food. They went on to get positive assessments in the national final, an important confirmation which led to the start of the company ViscoSens AB, in 2011.

Healthy bread with viscous fibres
Christina and her collegues came third in the Venture Cup Syd 2010 competition with their business plan.

 

The market is not ready for measurement technology

From the beginning, they hoped to sell the technology itself to the food industry, but the sector proved not to be ready, mainly due to new regulations which hampered the communication of health benefits from individual food products. The idea evolved into forging an alliance with a bakery, but the business idea developed gradually and now consists of developing and selling various fiber mixes to bakeries which produce health bread with the market's best viscous fibres, quality assured with the new measurement technology which was and remains the core of ViscoSens' business concept. 

– It is easier to sell a product than a measurement technology, but I am an engineer, so I did not know that. But we managed to get the right people into our network. 

It has been an incredibly interesting journey. Being part of a start-up company based on research, seeing how to apply for money for things other than research projects, and getting recognition and interest from people and organisations around us is fantastic.

ViscoSens has a representative from LU Innovation on its board, and since autumn 2012 the company has appointed Tord Ekegren, the former CEO of industrial bakery Pågen, as CEO of ViscoSens, a position largely financed via support from LU Innovation.

– That is a real asset. We are a great team!

Enquiries from other researchers

Christina gets many questions from other researchers who have an idea and do not know what to do with it. They want help getting started, wonder how to deal with patents and venture capital, how to start a company and how to find out whether the business idea is sustainable.

Christina also advises the person who has taken the initiative for the idea to be the majority share owner, at least until the concept becomes a proper company or a license.

– This might be a researchers disease, but you want to be in a position to quality assure the idea you have! And LU Innovation and the holding company have the same philosophy, they have no motivation to take over – their task is rather to pull out gradually.

 

Fact about Viscosens

Background

In autumn 2003 a pilot study was undertaken to plan a research and demonstration project within the quality assurance of Functional Food production. The first project chosen was a discovery about the blood sugar-regulating properties of various foods, carried out by LTH researchers Elin Östman and Inger Björck. The discovery concerned a link between physiological viscosity in certain types of bread and their glycemic index (GI).

Idea

Researcher Christina Skjöldebrand, in collaboration with her colleagues Malin Sjöö and Ann-Charlotte Eliasson, started the development of a new measurement technology using physiological viscosity together with other parametres to predict how the bread will affect the blood sugar response of the consumer (GI).

 

Company/license

Christina Skjöldebrand, Malin Sjöö and Elin Östman started ViscoSens AB in 2011. LU Holading AB and Kristianstad University's holding company have been part owners since 2013.

The company develops and sells fiber mixes to bakeries which produce healthy bread containing the best viscous fibres on the market. The bread products must be quality assured with the exceptional measurement technology. The company also sells measurements using the measurement method, as well as consultancy services.