Interview with Dr Gabriella Colucci, finalist for the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2018

COST Action participant and finalist for the EU prize for Women Innovators 2018, Dr Gabriella Colucci gives a short interview on her work, career and the benefits of scientific networking.

“COST is a magnificent experience of knowledge sharing” 

Dr Gabriella Colucci

What does being shortlisted for the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2018 mean to you?

I am extremely happy and am sure that this will help Arterra to become more visible and  therefore to widen its network. Moreover, it is also a great honour and very gratifying to be selected from among 12 EU women entrepreneurs . It means a lot to me, particularly in the social context where women have fewer opportunities and more difficulties than men, especially in the south of Italy. 


You are the founder and CEO of Arterra Bioscience – tell us how it all started

I wanted to return to Europe having spent almost 10 years in the United States. I had an opportunity to license a technology I had developed while I was an employee at Arena Pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, I had the support of my small research group and, as a result, I founded Arterra Bioscience Srl


What were the main difficulties you encountered as an entrepreneur?

The greatest difficulty was finding Italian industrial partners wanting to invest in biotechnological research and innovation. We were very lucky to meet the Isagro and Intercos companies which became our partners for developing technologies for agriculture, the former, and for raw materials for cosmetics, the latter.

Another major difficulty was the slow pace of granting research funding. For a number of approved and funded projects, the delay in granting the funding was more than six years. Obviously, this led to huge delayed expectations for a small research company like Arterra.


What does your company do and how does that help society?

My company is a research-based biotech company with applications in agriculture and cosmetics and, in the near future, in nutraceuticals. In particular, in the cosmetics sector, we also produce and bring to market the raw materials derived from our research activity. The raw materials we develop derive either from cell cultures or from industrial waste coming from the agri-food chain. Both categories of active ingredients are extremely sustainable.

Arterra has also created 20 highly skilled jobs in a region where youth unemployment is extremely high. Therefore, we want to create employment and develop products that can improve people’s well-being. And all this with minimum environmental impact because respect for the environment and its resources is very important to me when assessing new business sectors.


What do you think makes you an innovator?

From the beginning, I believed that biotechnology could be a tool for innovation in local industry and that no huge investments were needed to develop new technologies and new products if they were well integrated in local companies that understand and facilitate innovation.


How did you learn about the COST Programme?

From university colleagues and the Italian National Research Council ( CNR - Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche ).


How did your participation in a COST Action ( ‘Exploiting genomics to understand plant-nematode interactions ’) help you in your professional career?

It gave me the opportunity to expand my network of knowledge and to share projects and strategies with brilliant colleagues from various European countries.


I see you have a section on your website dedicated to your collaborators; what role does networking play in building a network of collaborators? Did COST contribute to this?

A fundamental role. From the many projects in collaboration with public research bodies and private industries the know-how is increased and the curiosity is stimulated. The possibility of collaborating with researchers all over the world contributes to maintain a high level of knowledge and, therefore, of possible innovation.

Yes, with some of the COST partners the collaboration has continued in other projects.


Is there any advice you would like to give women who are starting their careers and would like to create their own company or develop a research project?

Not to be in a hurry to understand what is the best way to turn your dream into an idea and the idea into a company. There is no better way to become an entrepreneur – working and investing your energy in a project is a fundamental and adequate way to create your own company.


Describe COST in one sentence.

A magnificent experience of “knowledge sharing”

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Last updated: 30 April 2018 top of page