Innovation mandates provide support to postdoctoral researchers who wish to deploy active efforts to achieve the effective transfer, the exploitation and the utilisation of their research findings. This can be done either through a collaboration with an existing company, or by working towards the establishment of a new spin-off company.
The ultimate goal is to bridge the gap between academia and industry and to help the researchers to make the transition into the business world. During the implementation of the mandate, the mobility of researchers between academia and industry is encouraged.
The projects which are implemented in this funding programme are Strategic Basic Research projects with an economic finality, that are innovative and provide the post-doctoral researcher with ample intellectual properties. Innovation mandates aim to build up scientific or technological knowledge as a basis for economic applications. They present a risk level that is too high to allow their execution as an industrial R&D project.
The funding programme is open to anyone who holds a doctorate (PhD) diploma. Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) does not impose any additional restrictions. The scheme is therefore open to all nationalities and all academic disciplines. A postdoctoral researcher acts as the candidate mandate holder, with the guidance of one (or more) academic promotors and one (or more) industrial mentors. The academic promotors monitor the scientific quality and progress of the project. The industrial mentors are responsible for the strategic orientation of the research and guide the candidate on valorisation issues. They participate in determining the research tasks that are necessary to ensure that scientific research results can be transferred to industry. In the second phase, the company is the applicant and is responsible for the co-financing of the project (see further).
A project proposal should be defined and developed in consultation with all partners: the company (companies), the knowledge centre(s) and the candidate mandate holder. The partners must sign a mutual cooperation agreement. This cooperation agreement is preferably appended when submitting the project application; if not, at least a term sheet outlining the mutual agreement between the partners concerning the intellectual property rights on the project results must be signed and submitted before the date stated in the call document.
An innovation mandate provides funding for salary costs, operating costs, equipment costs and fixed costs in relation to one specific employee (the mandate holder). The standard rules of the VLAIO cost model apply a priori. The budget includes the pay-roll for the mandate holder, operating costs, equipment costs and fixed costs. The sum of the non-pay-roll costs (= operating cost+ equipment costs+ fixed costs) is maximum € 40,000 per year in full-time.
Within an innovation mandate, the cooperation may involve an existing company, or efforts may be made to establish a spin-off company. As a result, there are various types of mandates:
1) Innovation mandates leading to the establishment of a spin-off company (hereinafter called spin-off mandates). The main objective of this type of innovation mandates is to establish a spin-off developing an industrial activity in Flanders. The mandates are 100% funded by VLAIO for up to 2 years. The mandate stops the moment the spin-off is established. There will be a collaboration with an industrial mentor (possibly several) who will be involved in a coaching role (this can also include venture capital funds and consultancy firms).
2) Innovation mandates involving cooperation with existing companies.
These innovation mandates may consist of 2 phases:
- Exceptionally, a first phase of up to 12 months can be supported by a 100% subsidy to the university/knowledge centre. This is a stage during which more research is required to assess the feasibility in a business context. All the parties together will define milestones, and the thereto related scientific objectives, which should be achieved within one year at the latest.
- A second phase of up to 24 months, in which a company is the applicant and is responsible for the strategic orientation of the research, and provides co-financing. The funding percentage depends on the size of the company and equals 50% for a large company, 60% for a medium-sized company and 70% for a small company (SE). The project can get 10% extra support if there is a well-balanced collaboration between several independent companies of which none of the companies contributes more than 70% of the cost, and at least one partner is an SME. VLAIO pays the subsidy to the company responsible for the full reimbursement of its partners.
Mandates starting with Phase 1 shall proceed to Phase 2 after 6 months or after 12 months at the latest. The total project can run over 24 months or a maximum of 36 months. Phase 2 should start immediately after Phase 1 (no discontinuity for the mandate holder). Where the mandate does not proceed to Phase 2, it stops after Phase 1 (Phase 1 cannot be extended).
It is also possible for a mandate to be co-financed by a company from the start, i.e. it begins directly in Phase 2. These projects are also granted for two (2) or three (3) years.
In particular, if the company also contributes its own knowledge / models / tools, an immediate start with Phase 2 is highly recommended.
The application should clearly indicate which type of mandate has been chosen. There are different application forms available corresponding to the different types of mandates.