The company Quempin stood out among one thousand applicants in the initiative developed by the TECLA Social Innovation Fund, thanks to the potential impact of its technological innovation in the bakery sector.
Quempin, a spin-off from the Federico Santa Maria Technical University, received a great motivation to continue contributing to the country’s sustainable development, as its impact on the reduction of contaminating emissions by the bakery sector recently won it first prize in the consolidation category of the Caja Los Andes Entrepreneurial Talent Competition (TECLA).
The third edition of this competition, which began last September and received close to one thousand applications, was focused on sustainability, circular economy and social impact. In this sense, the efficient gas burners developed by Quempin demonstrated sustainable potential in one phase of the initiative.
Nicolás Becker, a USM graduate in mechanical civil engineering and CEO of Quempin was very happy to receive the award -which consisted of 10 million pesos (CLP)-, and highlighted that in addition to being a huge economic support to take on the challenges faced by the company as a result of the social outburst and COVID-19 pandemic, the award is also a great emotional driver.
“It is really good to know that there is interest in eliminating wood-burning stoves from the bakery sector, and that society values technological innovations made in Chile, here at the Santa Maria University, in the difficult mission to transition towards cleaner energy. This is a good business, and it has a good purpose, which is to decontaminate our country,” he explains.
Becker also explained that in order to advance to the finals, they had to give a pitch on their business idea in 3 minutes or less. Once named among the ten finalists, they underwent a mentoring process in which the judges helped them scale their business. Finally, they had to prepare a 4-minute digital presentation to an expert panel of judges, including government officials and famous entrepreneurs.
Importance of spin-offs
“Quempin is a company that came out of USM, a spin-off, which started a couple of years ago. It now has a licensing contract for a patent in process for the development of technology,” explains Mario Toledo, professor in the institution’s Department of Mechanical Engineer and partner in the company, when asked about the relationship between the two. Ultimately, the spin-off develops and sells the technology created at the University.
However, another feature that links this technology developer to the University is its human component. “We have members from all different levels: professors, former students, academic support staff. We are a spin-off composed of the Institution’s human resources and graduates,” says Toledo.
In the same line, the company’s CEO states that, “USM has a lot of technologies that can be exploited commercially. I was really lucky to find my current business partners, who are faculty members and have supported me and given me all of the tools to develop this technology while it was still in its very early stages, and to work to launch it to the market. This is a success story for USM, and I hope it can inspire more people to do the same.”
“The importance of the Technology Transfer and Licensing Office in the protection process has been key, as they have helped us with technology oversight in order to apply for an invention patent to protect us in the event of a conflict of interest in terms of intellectual property. We are very grateful to them, and they also helped us sign an exclusive licensing contract for Quempin burners. With that signing, we made it official that Quempin Spa is a Spin-Off from the Federico Santa Maria Technical University. I am very proud to help in the technology transfer process, because there is a global trend of universities working towards the benefit of society,” Becker adds.
Finally, Professor Mario Toledo explains that this type of burner is designed and manufactured at USM, and is later installed in bakery ovens. “The burner is low consumption, very efficient, and primarily delivers heat through radiation, enabling us to eliminate the (highly contaminating) use of wood, without affecting the bread production quality. We have received great reviews from those who have made the change in technology, and there are places where we have been operating for over a year now.”
Due to the country’s current health crisis, Quempin is operating from a temporary workshop located in Quilpué, where it is developing its present and future projects. “We are also looking for new customers, new markets, like paper and paint drying,” says Nicolás Becker.