Expert Voices Expert Voices – Francisco Cortés Martínez
We have spoken to over 30 experts on the topic of HEI-SME consortia and funding and created a blog series of expert voices out of it. One of the experts we have interviewed during the research phase of the project to assess the status-quo, is Francisco Cortés Martínez. You can find all the blogs in this series here.
Francisco Cortés is CEO and Founder of Sensia Solutions, an SME promoted in 2008 by researchers from the Carlos III University of Madrid to commercialise the results of research projects developed in their laboratories. Sensia´s core business is the development of infrared cameras which target multiple sectors such as aerospace, military, environmental, security, protection and industrial, among others. The main uses of these cameras are i) gas detection and quantification, ii) flame and leak detection and surveillance, and iii) liquid and smoke carryover monitoring; all are a set of infrared solutions for a better world.
Image: Francisco Cortés Martínez
Image: Francisco Cortés Martínez
Sensia is a good case of the HEI-SME collaboration paradigm, not only because it is the first spinoff where the UC3M has invested in its share capital, but also, an more important, because since the beginning there is a regular collaboration base that has been materializing in different projects. It is very relevant to point that Sensia builds its position in the market upon knowledge and technology, it develops the competitive advantage offering cutting- edge technology which leads it to establish connections with different research centres, booster partnerships for complex challenges solving, or even to coordinate of several projects of the Horizon 2020 program.
Francisco Cortés highlights the main motivations that led him to participate in the Horizon2020 program along with HEI. In the first place, it tells us about the magnitude of the financing grants, which is well above the financing possibilities at the national level in Spain. This, together with a low rate of competitiveness with other European countries which offer greater funding alternatives in R&D at the national level, increases the success-rate for companies like Sensia. Finally, and unforgettable as a strong motivator to take into account, there was “the need”, in other words, the impossibility of supporting the financing needs of a young SME with their own resources in a competitive, solvent and robust way.
He shares with us that, in his opinion, the Spanish tech-industry has very difficult access to its domestic market. There is hardly any internal consumption of products and services generated in Spain, instead it is preferred to adopt imported technology for equal or even lower quality. It is easier to open international markets than attract domestic clients; furthermore, some sectors, such as the military, are impenetrable. In our country, it is still necessary to implement the culture of adopting national innovative technology. Additionally, there are problems related to the volume of national financing available for technology companies that are currently competing internationally within a global frame. For the same project, Spanish technology companies compete with others in whose countries they have access to significant amounts of national financing, a huge handicap for Spanish companies. These differences are mitigated when we talk about participation in European projects; the distribution of European funds, usually, considers projects from countries with a lower R&D budget, although getting selected is not an easy task.
What are Sensia’s motivations for fostering a permanent relationship with a knowledge centre such as the Carlos III University of Madrid?
Sensia´s business model is based on offering innovative products. In this case, the knowledge of the University allows us to be up-to-date, in the edge of emerging technologies, which is very relevant since R&D in our company is one of our main competitive elements. Besides, UC3M offers us significant value in institutional support and, above all, constant information on new research projects carried out by the university, which flows to facilitate new collaborations. The continuous knowledge generated by a university allows SMEs to find out emerging technologies, supporting R&D as a competitive advantage driver. Moreover, being hosted in the University Science Park, within the Technological Leganés, is to benefit from a very dynamic and unusual innovative ecosystem in our environment with all its dynamics and benefits.
However, regarding this ecosystem idea, we must distinguish and be very careful on the maturity level of the company. We started in the UC3M incubation program but being a tenant in an incubator, in a certain way, can damage the company when the startup phase is overcome. The support and relationships provided by a university in the early stages of the company’s life may be harmful in later stages, since this association may cause a lack of confidence on the part of customers about the capabilities and competencies of the company and, therefore, this might negatively affect and decrease the company´s opportunities. There is a time for the incubator and a time to get over, but always from the perspective of coexistence, dynamics and convenience of a strong innovative ecosystem for all agents.
Authors: Jose Luis G. Sacristán, María José Herrero-Villa and Ester Martínez-Ros