The researcher chose entrepreneurship


Emil Rosén founded the company Sapiron based on an idea he developed during his doctoral studies.
Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt.

Most people do not go into academia because they want to become entrepreneurs. Neither did Emil Rosén, but the idea he developed during his doctoral studies was too promising to resist.

“It's not that dramatic. More than anything, I'm a problem solver.”

When Emil Rosén chose to do his doctoral studies in image analysis for life science, he had no dreams of it leading to his own company with a proprietary innovation. Nor did he have a clear plan for a further research career. A regular job in the business world was also a path he could take. It was simply a matter of picking which door to walk through. So when he made the leap from academia to becoming a full-time entrepreneur, it wasn't a particularly difficult decision.

“I like to work with what I find interesting at the moment. It really hasn't been a huge change for me. Probably because I'm basically a problem solver. Whether you're working in the research world or with customers, as I do now, there are problems that need to be solved,” says Emil Rosén.

Saw the needs early on

Emil Rosén describes his doctoral studies at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology as a lot of fun and very interesting. Not least because, through his Master's studies in engineering physics, he felt far removed from the world of medicine and biology. But he soon realised he could make a contribution to that field. In addition, had got the opportunity to also evolve in one of his biggest interests – computational techniques.

“I'm very focused on image analysis and AI now, and have always been interested in computational techniques and machine learning. When I started my doctoral studies, I didn't really have much knowledge about neural networks or image analysis, but it was something I had to learn because I realised early on that there was a need for it in the research group,” explains Emil Rosén.

He saw colleagues struggling for weeks trying to solve image analysis problems when they were actually experts in something completely different. Moreover, advanced image analysis methods were gaining ground in life science, but practical implementation, both in academia and industry, was generally slow.

An innovation takes shape

“I wanted to help. That's how it all started. But I didn't have time to do it at work, so in my spare time I wrote a software application that I would have liked to have when I was a doctoral student. It would have made things much quicker and smoother,” he explains.

As a researcher, it can sometimes be difficult to see what could become a company, but with a year left in his doctoral studies, Emil Rosén felt he was on to something. The actual decision to start his own business, however, came after his thesis defence.

“Only then did I feel I could focus and realised that I could make my idea a reality,” he explains.

His software solution combines image analysis and AI, and in the product version also cloud services, since an important point is that a non-technical person should be able to use it.

The customers he focuses on are in biotech, live cell imaging and drug development, and the image analysis problems he mainly wants to help solve are ones that are not standard, but are recurring. One example he cites is a company that wants to test which cancer cells respond to which drugs in zebrafish. He is now collaborating with this company to validate the product concept.

Building networks

Emil Rosén’s journey with the company has just begun. His visions are big and small at the same time.

“The short-term focus is on bringing in enough sales revenue to finance things myself. In the long term, I hope to build a company with around fifty employees and have my solution out in companies in different parts of the world. What drives me is that I want to be able to create some kind of impact with what I do, such as making it faster and cheaper to develop new drugs.”

One of the major differences between this and the life of a researcher, says Rosén, is networking and trying to make contact with different people.

“As an entrepreneur, you have to go out and talk to people and it feels strange, but most people are both willing to talk and willing to help. Before I didn't care about this, but now I focus on talking to as many people as possible and my network is growing all the time.”

Text: Sara Gredemark

In person: Emil Rosén

Emil Rosén. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt.

Current: PhD in Medical Science and founder of Sapiron AB, a start-up in image analysis for life science

Likes: Listening to music, playing board games and taking long walks in nice weather.

Favourite games: Gloomhaven, Alchemists

Looking forward to: Moving in with my partner in our first apartment together in Stockholm.

Inspired by: People with a passion for something greater and being able to help solve problems.

Get my best ideas: When my mind is free to wander and when I dream at night.

Support from UU Innovation

Emil Rosén has received support for his innovation project from UU Innovation. He has received business development coaching, support from intellectual property advisors and funding for trademark registration, market research and contract support. Emil Rosén has also participated in UU Innovation's mentor programme, where he was matched with a mentor with extensive experience in product and business development in medical technology and image analysis.

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Last modified: 2023-12-01