Johnson & Johnson opens first European JLABS incubator

Janssen's Beerse campus (Janssen)

Johnson & Johnson has opened its first JLABS incubator in Europe. The 30-startup hub will supersede the JLINX incubator J&J helped to set up at its R&D site in Beerse, Belgium.

J&J first established an incubator in Beerse in 2016. Back then, the site was dubbed JLINX, not JLABS, and day-to-day management was handled by a team from Bioqube Ventures. That gave Bioqube a key role in managing the portfolio, liasing with external investors, attracting new startups and growing the initiative. J&J contributed VC money and supported the Bioqube team.

Asked whether Bioqube is still involved after the JLINX-JLABS transition, J&J said the group "has advised us of their plans to raise a VC fund ... after a successful 2 years establishing an incubator at the Beerse campus."

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JLINX followed the broad model established by JLABS but sought to tweak it to the situation in Europe. The tweaks reflected a belief that the lower level of entrepreneurial activity in Europe compared to the U.S. would make it difficult to directly transpose the JLABS model across the Atlantic. That belief led J&J to conclude that the incubator needed to proactively identify academics working on exciting science and help them transition to industry rather than wait for them to independently found startups. 

The incubator has reached into academia to facilitate the creation of some of the 10 companies that now make up its community, such as ProteoFormiX. But in other cases it has just given a boost to firms that already existed but were still finding their feet.

Despite its prior reservations about bringing JLABS to Europe, J&J now thinks the model will work.

"Whilst both JLABS and JLINX are complementary company incubation models, the differentiating factor is that the JLABS model is predicated on the premise that it is “no strings attached” meaning that we do not make investments or take any rights in any of the companies coming into JLABS.

"Additionally, JLABS provides the optimal environment for emerging companies to catalyze growth and optimize their research and development by opening them to vital industry connections, delivering entrepreneurial programs and providing a capital-efficient, flexible platform where they can transform the scientific discoveries of today into the breakthrough healthcare solutions of tomorrow. This model has proven highly successful in other regions of the world and we are optimistic that this will be an important progression for the EMEA region," a spokesperson for J&J said.