Team:Ionis Paris/Entrepreneurship

Our in-depth thinking about Applied Design shows us the real potential of Quantifly on the pollutant detection market. We investigate how this project can be develop and improve to lead to the creation of a company, if the laboratory results allowed it.
To find out the better orientation to give to Quantifly, we reached out for companies and incubators. To do so, we designed a flyer, wrote a project presentation and pitch. We took appointments with a lot of professionals for two major purposes:

  • To obtain help and sponsoring: as our team is not linked to any public institutions, we cannot access public funds. We had to raise all the project’s funds by ourselves. We looked for laboratory equipment, money, licenses and keys for softwares.

  • To get advices and tips about real-world applications of our project from people working in the air pollution/drone measurement sectors. As our project is something that has never been seen before, we wanted to be sure that we could enter the market and exploit our project’s potential to its maximum.

  • Though we did not get any official sponsoring to fund the whole project at once, we had help from different companies and gathered a lot of opinions about Quantifly. Some of the meetings were really useful and made us discover potential applications that we never suspected before! We also learnt a lot about where our project needed improvement. Gathering the feedbacks of all these professionals unveiled a lot of potential for our project.
    Many professionals were interested to see our Proof of Concept. At the end of the competition, we were even contacted by some companies that wanted to install our sensor on their product, or that wanted to establish partnerships and install their technology on our drone.
    In parallel, we also went to see the National Institute of Intellectual Property to get advices of how to protect our project.
    To conclude, these professional appointments have permit the development of our iGEM project, give an entrepreneurial dimension to our projec and brought us many interesting business contacts. We draw a Business Model showing how to efficiently make a company out of Quantifly.

    Drone companies

    Companies involved: Le FlyLab, Civic Drone, BlackFoot

    The aim of these interviews was to discuss the technical aspect of our drone and to compare it to other existing models. While it seems that the model we have currently is fitting the use we want to make of it, we have been extensively warned about legislations concerning the use of a drone within a public area. In France at least, the drone has to be registered and a license issued to the pilot before anything can be done. We also got a lot of advices concerning a possible guiding system that would allow measurement automation through a GPS-oriented drone.
    These companies were very interested in using a quick and precise sensor on a drone since this sector is constantly increasing.

    Bouygues Group

    We managed to get in touch with the Bouygues Group and especially the construction area of this group. We got several appointments with different persons within this big company : Noëlie LOPES, Project Manager in the Bouygues innovation lab; Roland LEROUX, Director in charge of big-data and pollution mapping, Solenn DE CHAURAND in charge of indoor pollution detection, and Thierry JUIF, Director of sustainable construction and ecoconception R&D.
    Bouygues group did show lots of interest in our project but this latest was not developped enough to allow a sponsoring relationship to be established. However, they gave us a lot of ideas about where to use our project, for example in construction places. When a buiding is finished, the company in charge of its construction have to verify if this building is clean from any form of pollution before closing the contract. In this situation, our product can be a good alternative to existing physical-chemical techniques.

    Intellectual Property

    We met a jurist at the National Institute of Intellectual Property. Though the iGEM is based on open source science, there was not much we could do to patent our idea before the end of the competition. However, we got two leads. First, we sent a “Soleau envelope”, a letter containing a short description of our project and the team members specifying that we started working on the idea at a given date. In the case of a potential concurrent using our work, we would be able to claim that we were the first working on the idea.
    Then, he told us about “Improvement patents”: though our complete DNA sequence will be online in the registry, and our drone’s files available on our Wiki, if we work on the project so hard that we eventually improve it enough, it can be considered as a different product and get patented as a new innovation.

    Potential business model

    Project orientation

    We concluded our meetings and interviews with a discussion about the business approach we should take and ended up developing our own business model. We first thought of selling a service instead of a product as we know that genetically modified organisms cannot be handled by non-trained persons. A data collection service could be established for the government, companies or even individuals in which a technician comes to perform on site measurements. Data are then accessible to the customer. This also could solves the problem caused by the drone licence, as the technician would be trained to pilot drones.

    Secondly, we considered the idea of changing the bacterial container and replacing the drone for outdoor monitoring by an indoor sensor in the format of a smoke detector. This detector will be placed in public places and be renewed often by specialized employees.

    We also imagined creating a network-connected object that will give real time information on the air quality at the street level by a mobile application like the Plume lab app. Plume lab is a company that aims to give information on air pollution to the general public (see the Plume labswebsite for more informations)

    Last but not least, the greatest advantages of biosensors is their adjustability. Indeed, a single specific pollutant can be targeted by changing the genetic construction of our biosensor. Quantifly on field measurement system will open up the new possibilities for environmental monitoring.

    Budget estimation:

    We established the development cost of our project as well as the sampling cost. The price of our service was then determine according to the Business Model above : we sell a service, being a set of data collected after 1 flight.
    We stated that, after three years spent on R&D, we will get bacteria transformed with an optimized biosensor within a drone able to perform 45 measurements. To calculate the budget, the persons working within our potential future start-up were taken in account.
    Then rentability of our project was estimated using the tables below.

    First, the approximate cost of one sampling was determined, based on the time it takes to get the results and the required material:

    According to the table above, the price of one sampling would be 38.17€. However, the investment cost has to be taken in account as we have to optimize our genetic construction and purchase a luminometer before selling our service.
    Thus, we calculated the total investment required to properly launch our project after three years of Research and Development. The results are shown in the table behind.

    We try to determine the cost of our service taking into account the production cost (variable and fix cost), the growth of our company and the increasing number of sales.
    Due to the growth of the start-up, we established that are going to appoint a technician in 2025.

    Lastly, we determine the return on investment of our company depending on the company annual earning determine above. The company will start being lucrative in 2028.