“I already did two massive programmes (at home in Belgium) and I wanted a quick PhD programme, just three years,” he remembers, laughing. “So I thought I was going to be in and out. And now ten years later, I am still here. Cambridge is just such a beautifully sticky place.”
What he found at the university far exceeded his expectations. Excellence in science, yes. But beyond that, there was so much more on offer.
“Seeing all the opportunities, setting up businesses and the entrepreneurship support – that was a little bit surprising. I wasn’t expecting that. There was a plethora of organisations that are not student labs or led by the university that sort of brought out the entrepreneurial nature of everybody really. And I was really drawn into that.”
Within three months he’d attended his first entrepreneurship event. Within another month he’d joined a company he’d seen pitching for investment there. He then worked with the Cambridge University Technology and Enterprise Club (CUTEC), where he met his future company cofounder.
“Tarun (Vermulkar) and I were able to develop a different approach to doing academic research because we worked with so many great entrepreneurs during our time at CUTEC. The shift towards thinking about business plans, commercial strategy and brand wasn’t that big a leap to take.”
The pace and pattern of his new life in the UK were set, taking full advantage of the commercial guidance from Cambridge Enterprise, as well as the accelerator programmes at the Cambridge Judge Business School.
Once you’re in the ecosystem you see all the opportunities that are around
The duo built their startup Semarion from within the walls of the university and they recently developed their own manufacturing suite, planning to double their team of five by the end of the year.
“I’ve benefited tremendously from the great minds in Cambridge who walked here before me. I want to be one of these people as well, where I can inspire the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs doing something great.”
Support programmes covered: