As president of the innovation-promoting non-profit Inartis Foundation and executive director of Swiss life-sciences hub Campus Biotech, Professor Benoît Dubuis knows a thing or two about fostering interactions between visionaries and investors.
Having trained as an engineer and earned a PhD at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Zurich, before completing further studies at Cambridge and Cranfield, he has worked for a variety of pharmaceutical companies including Chemap, Ciba-Geigy/Novartis and Lonza. He later founded the life sciences faculty and became the first dean of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) before founding BioAlps in 2001, medical research and development company Excellgene in 2002 and Swiss life sciences seed-fund and incubator Eclosion in 2004.
With more than 30 years of international experience across a variety of management positions, Benoît is passionate about supporting the promotion and understanding of life sciences.
Ahead of chairing the 32nd edition of the MedTech Investing Europe Forum (MTi) in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 12 and 13, he talks to Campden FB about promoting innovation and supporting entrepreneurs…
Tell us about the Inartis Foundation…
In the context of project emergence, one needs multidisciplinary skills. In the context of company creation, one needs additional managerial, promotional and communication skills. This is what the Inartis Foundation does by animating networks of expertise, encouraging flashes of genius, operating sites, hosting incubators and bringing the industrial world closer to the research and innovation world.
Where are you on your journey right now?
The common thread of my activities is innovation and entrepreneurship. The main difference between innovation and entrepreneurship is that the former involves introducing something new - this can be a new business model, product, idea or service, while the latter involves turning a great idea into a business opportunity. Therefore, entrepreneurship begins with innovation. Moreover, there is a risk component in entrepreneurship, the structures I manage mitigate this risk by providing skills and guidance. This is true for Campus Biotech, which can be seen as a giant incubator, or the Inartis Foundation, which supports the emergence of projects and helps leverage innovation for the entrepreneurial community.
Entrepreneurial activity is measured by the number of opportunities - but this is not enough. They must be identified and supported, and this requires know-how and enthusiasm. We must have ambition and be prepared to commit ourselves to success. These two dimensions, state of mind and professionalism are at the heart of my action.
“We must not decide based on what exists, we must be able to project ourselves into the future.”
What are the benefits of events like MTi for investors and presenting companies?
MTi is fully in line with our approach to supporting innovators and entrepreneurs. This forum is important to get into the world of financing and to maintain a relationship with investors. More generally, it is a unique opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs, sector specialists and, of course, financial analysts and industry players who are willing to share their vision, learnings and ambitions. Understanding the ever-changing world around us is essential, learning how others have solved universal problems is instructive and meeting people who have had the same doubts but who have succeeded is encouraging. This is the strength of a community - and the MTi community is particularly rewarding.
What would you advise to family offices looking to get into MedTech investing but don’t know where to start?
The MedTech world is very large and diverse. Each investor has their own investment criteria in terms of expected return, time horizon, investment ticket etc. The aim of an investment portfolio is to achieve diversity and consistency. Conferences such as MTi present this diversity and the investment rationale for each opportunity. But there is no substitute for direct contact, for feeling the passion that drives entrepreneurs. That is what often makes the difference in the end and that is why I am delighted that we can return to ‘Physical’ formats. Due diligence studies are very technical and they can be done in virtual data rooms, but the ‘in real life’ perception of entrepreneurs and innovators is key to establishing a relationship of trust and leading to success.
What does a good working day look like for you?
Meeting people who challenge me, who make me discover new horizons and who make me enthusiastic.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Not to listen to advice and just listen to experience… I would encourage them to have self-confidence and trust in their ability to make their own way. So many things that seemed impossible have been achieved by visionary and courageous people. We must not decide based on what exists, we must be able to project ourselves into the future, have the courage not only to adapt to the market but to force the market to come to us.
What keeps you awake at night?
I sleep very well at night... Even if those nights are short! This allows me to be fully engaged during my working day.
For further information on the 32nd edition of the MedTech Investing Europe Forum (MTi) on July 12 and 13, contact Peter Newton via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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