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Malin Sjöö | Speximo

"There are strong connections between financing a company and a research project, and I can also make use of teaching in the company. I have to be able to explain my idea to various agents, to clients and suppliers, in order to reach out with my product. It is the same in the research world, really, when you want to disseminate your research findings."

Food science researcher and current CEO Malin Sjöö knows everything about arguing for her discovery. With her natural encapsulation method based on quinoa starch, she and her research colleagues have applied for patent protection, won the national final in Venture Cup and started the company Speximo, which currently has two full-time employees. 

Unique encapsulation method for natural skin cream

The research team contacted LU Innovation when they started to consider applying for a patent. The researchers got help with conducting a novelty search for their idea and with a preliminary evaluation of its patentability.

During the verification phase, the market and the cosmetics sector were thoroughly investigated. An instructive experience, according to Malin.

– When someone tries to shoot down your idea, that is when you identify its strengths.
 

Small starch particles from the quinoa plant
Malin Sjöö and her colleagues developed an incapsulation method based on small starch particles from the quinoa plant.


Different strategies for commercialisation

Malin thinks that her research comes from an environment open to new ideas. There is no concrete talk of commercialisation but it is well known that taking that route is an option.

But researchers have not always thought through the purpose of a patent, or considered whether they want to be the driving force in the commercialisation process themselves.

– If you want to submit a patent application, you also have to think about what is to become of it, who will own the patent and who will run it? If you do not visualise the entire patenting process, nothing will come of it. There are many strategies, and it is precisely in discussing these options that LU Innovation can be of great help.

The costs gradually increase and then it is essential to have considered follow-up. One strategy entails selling off the patent application in a licensing agreement, without having a company behind it, and another could be to form a company to manage and own the patent. A third strategy can be to set up a company in order to drive the commercialisation of the idea or the product behind the patent.

For Malin and her colleagues, it was clear – everyone was passionate about the idea and wanted to be involved in taking it further. The patent application therefore became the basis of a commercialisation strategy aiming to get the idea out on the market. 

 

Personal chemistry most important in collaboration

The collaboration with LU Innovation has entailed support all the way, from initial advice and guidance from business developers, operational commitment from trainees, help with funding support and client contacts, and finally in the form of part ownership and a representative on the board.

– We have had a good relationship all along. It is important to have someone to ask who can reflect your thoughts back so that you can find your own way. And now, with a knowledgeable representative from LU Innovation on the board, it has become more a question of discussing and taking decisions together.

Malin emphasises that personal chemistry is the most important element.

– This is something you have worked on a great deal and you are investing in developing. So you have to be able to do it together – the arguments should come from the right people and correspond to the way in which you want to work. Personal chemistry is extremely important and LU Innovation managed to connect the right people to our project.

 

Funding support leads to important pieces in the puzzle

The project has received various forms of funding support, which have contributed to important pieces in the puzzle. For example, it was possible to engage a consultant in the skincare field, Malin herself took partial leave of absence and was able to focus wholeheartedly on the company, and a product developer was appointed. The company currently has two full time employees. 

Speximo is currently active with customer collaborations and both small and large skin cream companies are looking at how the method could be applied in their systems. Meanwhile Speximo is investigating how the production of the raw material, the starch, can be developed so that there is a balance between production and demand. 

– There is a lot of interest and the idea is to keep working – you can not let go of an idea this good!

Facts Speximo

Background

In order to improve consistency and avoid a surface layer of oil, most face creams contain synthetic additives, tensides, which are not biodegradable and often cause skin irritation. The alternative, with natural additives, is usually much more expensive. In connection with a research project financed through the Antidiabetic Food Centre, focusing on the incapsulation of bioactive substances in food, it was discovered that starch can be used as a stabiliser so that oil and water do not separate – when applied to skincare, this leads to kinder and more gentle products.

 

Idea

Food science engineers and LTH researchers Malin Sjöö, Marilyn Rayner, Petr Dejmek and (the late) Anna Timgren developed an incapsulation method based on small starch particles from the quinoa plant. The method can be used to develop a new type of skincare products, among other things – stable, skin-friendly and cost-effective, and completely devoid of additives. The business idea won the national final in the 2012 Venture Cup.

 

Company/license

Speximo AB was set up in 2012. The company sells its method to skin cream companies so that they can use quinoa starch to produce a skin-friendly and natural skin cream. Ingredient companies which produce the specific starch or other ingredients for cosmetics are also clients. Speximo is currently in the process of scaling up production of the specific starch with the help of subcontracted suppliers. Speximo is owned by the researchers behind the method with LU Holding AB as part owner.