University of Tartu investment company to be led by business innovation expert Mart Maasik
The launching of the company UniTartu Ventures OÜ founded at the end of 2020 for investing intellectual property created by University of Tartu researchers will be led by its newly elected Investment Director, innovation expert Mart Maasik, who has a long-time experience in management and international business.
One goal of UniTartu Ventures OÜ is to create new opportunities for promoting research-based entrepreneurship stemming from the university. As the Investment Director, Mart Maasik can help the University of Tartu to be the accelerator of smart economy and actively participate in the creation of new high-tech companies. This is also supported by his experience, for example as a mentor to research-intensive companies participating in the Ajujaht programme and as an angel investor for eight start-ups.
The role of UniTartu Ventures and Mart Maasik is to recognise the investment potential of the diverse cutting-edge research projects of the University of Tartu and to find co-investors. In the current corona crisis, research-intensive companies associated with the university have proven themselves to be excellent innovators. For example, Icosagen has just introduced an anti-COVID-19 throat and nasal spray, which is very popular among consumers.
According to Maasik, launching the university’s investment company allows him to build something that has a broad and long-lasting positive impact. “UniTartu Ventures will become an important platform that facilitates and boosts the transfer of academic knowledge into entrepreneurship. This will increase the attractiveness of the university and its ability to support Estonia’s development towards a more complex economic model creating more added value,” he said.
Heidi Kakko, Chair of the Board of UniTartu Ventures, was pleased that several strong candidates participated in the competition. According to her, Mart Maasik had the advantage of diverse experience. “To lead of the newly established company, we were looking for a person with the so-called superpowers, so that the new initiative with a long-term vision and plan would get a quick and vigorous start. This company combines the wisdom and diligence of researchers from different fields, the rapid development and flexibility of start-ups and the ambition of venture capital. As its leader, Mart must find a solution to support all this within the framework of a dignified yet innovative university, so that new research-intensive unicorns would emerge from Estonia. We believe that Mart’s experience as an innovation manager, investor and mentor will find a proper application here,” said Kakko.
Vice Rector for Development of the University of Tartu Erik Puura believes that besides the launching of the company, Mart Maasik will have a lot of substantive work right from the beginning. “The investment company will start to open up new prospects for several teams stemming from the university’s feasibility fund programme that have reached the stage of setting up a spin-off company. In addition, the launch of the data accelerator of the biobank is waiting as well as a lot of new ideas from different fields, for example in connection with the green turn,” said Puura.
The newly elected Investment Director Mart Maasik has so far proved his competence in innovation management and business development. In addition to his current knowledge, he hopes to implement his wide personal network of entrepreneurs and investors from Estonia, Finland and Sweden to serve the goals of UniTartu Ventures.
Maasik has worked in various positions in SEB Bank for almost 20 years, including as head of business development and business innovation. He is the co-founder and jury member of Estonia’s largest business ideas competition and accelerator Ajujaht and the co-founder of the Innovation Leaders Club.
Heidi Kakko, Chair of the Board of UniTartu Ventures, 5624 9959, kakko.heidi [ät] gmail.com
Mart Maasik, Investment Director of the University of Tartu company UniTartu Ventures, 527 7352, mart.maasik [ät] gmail.com
Erik Puura, Vice Rector for Development, University of Tartu, 737 4802, 506 9882, erik.puura [ät] ut.ee