Meet Kloce Dongfang Li, the KTH researcher turned entrepreneur specializing in developing new materials from forest resources.
“I was amazed by the beautiful nature and tremendous amount of forests in Sweden.”
FineCell is one of the 10 winners of the 2018 ÅForsk Entrepreneurial Scholarship – hence deeptech of the week!
Developing a solution based on renewable nanomaterials to help manufacturers boost product performances while reducing carbon footprints.
FineCell use renewable nanomaterials to help manufacturers boost product performances while reducing their carbon footprints.
– Our materials can be used for a number of industrial applications, such as performance-enhancing ingredients for cosmetics and paints, as well as reinforcements for lightweight composites, Kloce Dongfang Li explains.
Kloce Dongfang Li is a Fiber and Polymer Science researcher, a chemist by training and an entrepreneur finding inspiration in the Swedish forest.
– I know that Sweden is a global leader in managing and using its resources, and I myself was amazed by the beautiful nature and tremendous amount of forests in Sweden. That was why I decided to pursue a PhD at KTH, with a major focusing on developing new materials from forest resources.
This was back in 2011. And just a few years later, Kloce Dongfang Li saw a commercial potential of the experimental results taking place at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
– Frankly it was a bit out of the scope of my doctoral research, and it wasn’t what we had expected from our experiments. We did see a commercial potential of our new finding, but we decided to leave it for a while and switch our focus back to the main track of my research.
However, after receiving his PhD degree in June 2015, Kloce Dongfang Li continued working as a researcher at KTH, carrying out additional experiments to confirm what he and the other researchers had found.
– This was where everything started.
In the meanwhile, the Stockholm incubator KTH Innovation helped Kloce Dongfang Li and his team with market insights and guidance to funding.
– Eventually, with the help of KTH Innovation and the funding from Vinnova, we filed our first patent in December 2015.
– It really feels incredible receiving the 2018 ÅForsk Entrepreneurial scholarship. It tells me that people believe in our innovation and that it can provide sustainable solutions to society’s challenges, says Kloce Dongfang Li.
He says it’s been tough to keep leads motivated and active throughout the technology verification - which is a crucial stage in the company’s sales cycle.
– The products are new to many of our leads. As such, performing tests on our products at their places, providing solid evidence to the unique benefits of our offers, is essential to their decision-making process for purchasing. However, if the leads are inactive, the whole sales cycle will have to be extended, and we’ll be running out of resources before we are able to close any deals, he explains.
But with the support from KTH Innovation, FineCell is learning how to tackle those challenges and growing a sustainable business.
– We’re really grateful to KTH Innovation. They have a deep understanding of the whole process in commercializing an innovation originating from the University, providing help at each step, and teaching us the essence about entrepreneurship, says Kloce Dongfang Li.
Last year, the company also got accepted by the EIT InnoEnergy's acceleration program.
– It’s an opportunity to speed up our commercialization with their support and through the international platform they provide.
FineCell is currently negotiating partnerships with a couple of large manufacturers.
– We hope to sign joint-development partnerships with them as soon as possible. Meanwhile, we’re on the way of closing deals with some small players too, which we believe will increase the value of our company.
FineCell is also looking for a business developer experienced in B2B sales, Kloce Dongfang Li explains.
– We hope to build a team that’s able to boost the commercialization of our innovation even further.
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