Big Brother and the Holding Company was Janis Joplin’s first band. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with the fact that there are 20 holding companies affiliated with Swedish universities, all of which exists solely to support researchers in getting their science out of the labs and onto the market.

They’re doing a great job of it so far. Some 225 million SEK have been invested into 722 companies, which up until this moment has generated 30 billion in tax revenue. Also, for every buck the Holding companies put into a company, follow-up investors put in an average of 111 bucks. That’s pretty good leverage. Oh and also: 58 percent of the companies which received investments from a holding company has mixed gender boards (as compared to 36,6 percent in companies listed on the Swedish stock exchange).

I thought of this the other day when I attended a seminar given by FUHS, which is a national umbrella organisation for all the university holding companies. It struck me how different the vibe was from what I’m used to when meeting with investors from outside of the university sector. These people didn’t seem to be in it for the money, they were on a *mission*.

I imagine the atmosphere might have been somewhat similar to this, in the golden age of ARPA and NASA. There and then, too, did state-funded hybrid organisations take it upon themselves to facilitate the kind of innovation that was simply too ambitious for the commercial sector to be able to support. Here and now, it feels more urgent than ever to be able to pull of that type of concerted effort again.

In cybersecurity there’s this concept called Trusted Execution Environment, where sensitive processes are allowed to run in isolation from the rest of the system, under conditions tailored and optimised for them uniquely. I think of what the university holding companies are doing as something like that, and I think it’s pretty fantastic.