CIVITTA helped establish a holding company for a leading CEE University

One of the key challenges in developed countries is how to develop a smart and research-intensive economy to strive towards greater surplus value in the economy. Many countries have identified knowledge transfer from research to utilisation in the private sector as a major bottleneck – in other words, promising research in universities is left on a shelf instead of using it to make our everyday lives better. As the knowledge transfer between scientists and entrepreneurs has proven to be difficult, several universities in the world have established their own holding companies where they help and encourage the scientists themselves to use the developed technology or data on a commercial scale by licensing or handing over the IP and supporting the scientists to start their own business.

Drawing on the best practices of well-known universities around the world that have adopted the approach of establishing their own holding company to support knowledge transfer from university to the economy in general as well as our extensive internal expertise of managing angel investment and venture capital funds, CIVITTA helped the University of Tartu to develop the business strategy of the soon-to-be established holding company UniTartu Ventures. The goal of the holding company will be to support its students and staff to commercialize their research ideas by handing over the IP rights in exchange for minority ownership in the established company.


Since the holding company concept is one of a kind in the whole of Eastern Europe, CIVITTA analyzed the best practices of the best-performing holding companies around the world as well as the current bottlenecks in those structures, before developing the tailored business and investment strategy for the University of Tartu holding company. The analysis consisted of four key pillars and answering the following questions:

  • Investment strategy and mandate – who are the targets (industries, company stage, and size, etc.) and potential deal flow, what are the characteristics of a traditional investment case, how does the investment process look like, positioning of the holding company
  • Organizational structure – what is the legal entity, how does the organizational structure look like, and what are the responsibilities of different parties
  • Budget and financial forecast – what is the required budget to support the investment fund management and carry out supportive services, what are the likely financial scenarios and outcomes of the holding company over the 15-year time horizon
  • Legal and risk analysis – what are the potential legal challenges that the holding company could face, what are the most likely risks and their impact on the holding company and the university itself

"With a university-owned private limited company, we can help researchers and also students to launch their business by directing the university's intellectual property to start-ups they establish and by looking for investors for that."

—Erik Puura, Vice Rector for Development, University of Tartu

As of now, the board of directors at the University of Tartu has given a green light to put the plan in motion and the university is determined to be a frontrunner in utilizing research in enterprise not only in Estonia but in Europe. In addition to investing in spin-offs that are formed from inside the university, the fund will also engage in investing in foreign tech startups that are interested in IP or data developed at the University of Tartu.


CIVITTA can help your entity understand and establish a holding company that supports students and staff to commercialize research ideas. Furthermore, we can help universities access financing sources and create accelerator programs.

Contact us for an in-depth discussion:

Veeli Oeselg


[email protected]