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Lennart Larsson | cTrap

"You can expect extra working hours and a bit of give and take. For example, I put in a lot of work on the patent, but it is worth perservering. I also thought it was fun to get out and do something different; I have been here at the University for many years."

Lennart Larsson, researcher in Medical Microbiology, has long conducted research into indoor environments and various problems connected to polluted air and humidity damage. The adsorption cloth cTrap is the first idea he has taken to the next level, developing an actual product and setting up a company.

- I do not work with commercialisation or manufacturing things. I work with analysing things. But I thought that this could become something, the idea was simple but so cleverly constructed!

Functional cloth for a healthy indoor environment

Lennart did some investigation into his idea of a surface emission trap, and did not find anything which could get in the way. When LU Innovation was contacted and a proper novelty search was conducted, the unique properties of his idea were confirmed. 

With help and support from the patent advisor, the Swedish patent application was drawn up and Lennart got help with market verification.

c-Trap, a functional cloth
The cloth blocks and traps the dangerous emissions directly at the source – while moisture is allowed to pass through unhindered to avoid mould formation.

Help with product development and testing

LU Innovation can assist with much more than the purely business development services of novelty searches and verification, patent advice and financing support. Solid industry expertise and a broad contact network are also available to researchers.

- In this case, it was not only a question of business development. At LU Innovation, there is a lot of expertise in various sectors. It was their expertise within technology and their contacts in industry that allowed us to develop the product. I would never have had time to find that expertise elsewhere.

Lennart was put in touch with a producer within the manufacturing industry, enabling the development of a laminate for what would be the final product – the cloth. Before the company was finally set up, a test installation was also carried out in a problem school for a year. The tests were developed and financed with support mediated via LU Innovation.

No costs until the company was set up

Many of the basic costs for the project could be already be covered during the development phase. 

- Together with LU Innovation, we were able to get funding which allowed us to avoid any costs to ourselves. We got money for the patent application, the product development and for the strategic planning of how we would reach the market. We did not really have any costs outstanding when we finally flourished as a company, which was wonderful. 

For Lennart, the collaboration and the financial support were crucial. Without them, he would have had to try to sell the idea, and it is not easy to sell an idea which has not been tested.

- I would have had the idea anyway, but I would not have had the drive to pursue it myself, it would not have worked out financially. And to be granted all this various funding, you needed a strong partner on the business development side.

A trainee became the CEO of the company

As the project was being developed, Johan Mattsson, a trainee at LU Innovation at the time, got increasingly involved.

- As a trainee, you have the advantage of being in a position to go in and work very operationally on the project. I created marketing material, contacted customers and tested the product against the market.

cTrap AB was set up in 2013, and when the time came to find a CEO it felt natural to appoint Johan.

- It is a guarantee, after all this is someone you are going to be working with for a number of years in the future, says Lennart. 

Johan's salary for the first year was secured by financial support which aims to give start-up companies a boost and help them to become self-sustaining. 

The company is now putting its efforts into establishing itself on the market with a focus on moisture-damaged housing, the most obvious application. The market for an emission trap in various formats is large, however, and in the future the areas of application may be extended.

Similarities between research and companies

Although cTrap is Lennart's first experience of commercialisation, no major surprises have turned up.

- There are major similarities between the research and business worlds. As a researcher, I am used to raising extra funding for what I do. I have to sell my services, be attractive on the market and demonstrate why I can do what I do better than anyone else. I have to raise money and use it as wisely as possible, and I may even need strategic partners to succeed in my research. 

Lennart's best tip to researchers who are considering developing an idea is clear:

- It is important not to move forward too fast, invest in quality assurance all the way!

Facts cTrap

Background

Moisture damage in buildings causes unhealthy emissions indoors, which can lead to asthma and other respiratory tract problems. Traditional air purifiers and ventilation installations only dilute the emissions but do not prevent them from spreading through premises where people spend time. Other waterproofing layers also have a tendency to lock in moisture and generate mould.

 

Idea

Lennart Larsson, researcher in medical microbiology, has developed a surface emissions trap, cTrap, in the form of a flexible cloth which is placed on moisture-damaged walls and floors. The cloth blocks and traps the dangerous emissions directly at the source – while moisture is allowed to pass through unhindered to avoid mould formation. The cTrap cloth, once installed, has the capacity to deal with emissions in the building for up to 100 years. The project won PwC's Innovation award in 2011 and was nominated for the Years Hottest Building Material in 2014.

 

Company/license

cTrap AB was started in 2013 with Johan Mattsson, a former trainee at LU Innovation, as CEO. LU Holding AB is a part owner. 

The company's business idea is based on simply and effectively ensuring a healthy indoor climate by selling and installing the cTrap cloth. The cloth can be used directly where moisture damage has been observed, or preventively in new constructions and renovations.