The Polish start-up Apeiron Synthesis, a supplier of fine chemicals and catalysts founded and chaired by Michał Bieniek, PhD, a beneficiary of the Foundation for Polish Science’s INNOVATOR programme, is the first European metathesis technology business to open a branch in the United States. This achievement will enable the company to establish a global centre and expand its operations to North American markets.
Apeiron Synthesis is a private company based in Wrocław, founded in 2009 by Michał Bieniek, PhD, and his business partner Łukasz Gułajski, its operations involving chemical synthesis. The company’s activity focuses chiefly on the development and application of innovative catalysts for metathesis, a technology already widely used to ensure more efficient and environment-friendly production of important pharmaceuticals, fuels, polymers, dyes, aroma compounds, flavours and many other products.
The company’s expansion to the American market began when, thanks to support obtained in the Foundation for Polish Science’s SKILLS project, in 2011 Bieniek took part in an intensive one-week Ignite training programme for entrepreneurs, run by the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (CfEL) at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School.
The Ignite programme is offered to young and ambitious entrepreneurs and inventors. It provides training in the commercialization of research results for business needs and boasts impressive achievements in inspiring the development of companies that use advanced technologies. As of 2011, thanks to financial support from the Foundation for Polish Science, 35 scientists, researchers and inventors from Poland have taken part in the Ignite programme.
Bieniek believes that the Ignite programme helped him fulfil his business plans. “Besides a noticeably broader outlook, the experience gained in the programme also gave me fundamental guidance on entering global markets. I developed my contacts, gathered tips and advice from seasoned entrepreneurs as well as experts. Their help turned out to be invaluable when it came to making strategic decisions on how to attract investors or sign contracts with clients”, Bieniek explains.
“Michał Bieniek is an excellent example of what Polish entrepreneurs can achieve through training in entrepreneurial skills and knowledge”, says Katarzyna Pronobis, external relations officer of the FNP SKILLS project. “We are glad that our cooperation with the University of Cambridge Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning has enabled over 30 SKILLS project participants to improve their skills and provided them with knowledge on the commercialization of technology to serve the needs of the business community. Supporting young businesses and start-ups is extremely important from the point of view of the long-term benefits it can bring the Polish economy”.
So far, Apeiron Synthesis has obtained more than USD 5 million from investors and grants, including from the Foundation for Polish Science, the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP), the National Science Centre (NCN) and the National Centre for Research and Development (NCBR). The production line for Apeiron’s main products was launched thanks to USD 2 million that the Wrocław Technology Park (WPT) invested in a research and production laboratory.
Apeiron Synthesis currently has five patent applications pending and two licences. As Bieniek explains, entering the American market in 2014 will help the company continue on its road towards becoming a new leader in metathesis technology development for chemical and pharmaceutical companies.
The Foundation for Polish Science’s SKILLS project is co-financed with European Union funding from the European Social Fund, and its aim is to upgrade skills in research project and research team management, develop scientific communication skills and develop pro-innovation attitudes.
Activities in the SKILLS project include training courses in commercialization and enterprise, courses in scientific communication, courses that improve research project and research team management skills, the Mentoring Programme, the INTER programme, the IMPULS competition, the Praxis programme, the eNgage competition and the Programme Managers’ Academy.