Bridging the gap between academia and the sports tech industry

For scientists or budding entrepreneurs with the next big idea in sports tech, the road from conceptualization to product can seem perilous, with many pitfalls along the way. To stand a chance at getting your research out of the lab and into the hands of athletes, it’s essential to start off on the right foot. Read on to see how the collaboration of scientists and sports tech development experts is helping this unique ecosystem in Belgium to flourish.

This is article was written by Christopher Playfoot for BioVox

Sports tech ideas on the shelf?

Personalized sports tech is an innovative and ever-growing industry. The sports wearable devices market size alone is estimated at over USD 90 billion in 2024 and is just one of many examples of personalized sports tech that can influence how athletes train, compete, and recover from injury.

Products aimed at helping you improve your performance and recovery time include GPS-tracking sports watches, heart rate monitors, advanced data analytics platforms, and adapted nutrition, among countless other innovations.

However, many ideas start life in university academic research labs with only a minor focus on commercialization possibilities. The challenge of navigating the convoluted commercialization pathway makes this situation worse. As such, most ideas never make it to market, meaning athletes miss out on potentially revolutionary advances.

“There’s a lot of research out there that is ending up on the shelf, and more and more companies need research for their product development. There’s still a large gap between academia and industry,” says Kristof De Mey, a sports technology and business developer at Victoris who acts as a single point of contact to bring together scientific and sports tech experts from within Ghent University and beyond.

“There’s a lot of research out there that is ending up on the shelf”

Kristof De Mey, a sports technology and business developer at Victoris 

Advancing sports tech development

Victoris is a consortium of experts in sports technology and innovation at Ghent University that aims to help bridge the gap between academic research, the sports tech industry, and end users while providing professional services, advice, or input to accelerate the commercialization of research projects. They also take a boots-on-the-ground approach to deliver direct services to high-level athletes, including elite rowers and football and cycling teams.

The approach is part of a larger strategy encompassing the Flanders region supported by the Industrial Research Fund, which provides proof-of-concept funding for developing application-oriented knowledge and technology. The fund supports the consortium of sports and business development experts at Victoris alongside similar initiatives in other domains and at other Flemish universities. It also provides ‘gap funding’ for projects that originate at universities and have the potential for later commercialization through licensing or a spin-off.

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