From a PowerPoint to invoicing two million euros in projects with impact

“We were kids with a PowerPoint.” That’s how Jordi Oliver, executive director of Inèdit, describes the beginnings of the company in March 2009. Fifteen years after that PowerPoint, Inèdit has a team of 35 people, executes 150 projects per year, and expects to invoice 2.2 million euros in 2024, accompanying companies and administrations in the transformation towards a more sustainable production and consumption system. “We are the ones of action, the ones of transformation,” Oliver points out. “We’re not here to do any project; we want clients who make the most of our hours to reduce environmental impact, emissions, waste; we want to leave a legacy.”

In this time, the environmental context has changed a lot. So has inèdit. “The problems that scientists told us in 2009 would come, have already arrived. The sense of urgency has intensified; and so have regulations and opportunities; citizens are more aware, there is more demand,” explains the executive director. At that time, “changing a company was a chimera,” and that made the focus of the work the product; how to improve it and make it environmentally more correct. Now, on the other hand, “we mainly talk about the business: how we produce, how we consume, how we relate to the consumer. It’s much broader, much more complex, and allows for a much deeper and necessary transformation.”

The fifteen years of history of inèdit are a good pretext to review its beginnings, learnings made during this time, and outline future lines.

The origins: grinding out a result

Those kids with a PowerPoint were, in addition to Oliver, Carles Gasol, Raul Garcia, Ramon Farreny, and Julia Martínez, who currently work at inèdit and constitute the management team. They had met a few years earlier at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), where they had pursued doctoral studies within the Sostenipra research group, under the supervision of pioneers in eco-design, industrial ecology, and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), such as Joan Rieradevall or Xavier Gabarrell, among others.

In total, the founding partners of the company were eleven, all linked to the ICTA: besides the mentioned five, three professors ―Gabarrell, Rieradevall, and Louis Lemkow― and the doctoral students Jesús Boschmonart, Laura Talens, and Neus Puy. “It was a very long and shared gestation process where it was clear that, although there were some supporting professors, those leading it had to be the doctoral students,” explains Oliver.

inèdit was the first environmental spin-off of the UAB. They started by offering what they knew: metrics, life cycle analysis, and eco-design. “We thought the path would be very straightforward, but we weren’t understood,” recounts Raul Garcia. “We had to rethink the service; we couldn’t do the same as in academia; we had to offer what is really important for companies, which is having information to make decisions,” he adds. In this sense, a very basic but effective improvement they introduced was putting the results in the first chapter of the reports, which, Garcia points out, “meant emphasizing the result more than the method.”

And how did the project start? Little by little, and “grinding out a result,” they identified the companies with more interest and more niche, points out Carles Gasol, who also highlights “the boost that levers such as legislative ones have provided, without which we wouldn’t be as many people as we are now.”

From scientists to entrepreneurs

Leaving academia and becoming entrepreneurs is a challenge that is not easy. For Gasol, “there is traction, but not training.” That is, “research parks and institutions that promote entrepreneurship encourage it, but they encounter people who are not trained for it, and this is where there are fears, worries, and insecurities.” The Director of Business Development is clear that those who dare to do so have other inputs that make them launch into business. For example, in the case of inèdit, it was the support of the Sostenipra research group, the team’s previous experience in third sector entities or family businesses, and, above all, “the opportunity to lead a project of their own where there seemed to be a future path and demand,” he points out.

However, “scientific knowledge must be wrapped in much more: in managing people and teams, in sales, in knowing how to communicate…, and nobody has ever taught you how to do that,” says Oliver, and everyone agrees with Ramon Farreny that, in this process, the key is “learning on the go and pushing forward.”

The secret of inèdit

Many music bands do not survive beyond their first album, but the core of Inèdit remains intact fifteen years after its founding. What is the secret? According to Julia Martínez: “We complement each other very well because we know how to value and trust in each other’s strengths; for me, it’s a matter of trust.” The foundation of the trust that Martínez talks about was already forged at the University, and Farreny explains it very well: “It’s not the same to fall in love suddenly with someone you’re going to live with, whom you don’t know, as it is to start a company with a group with whom you’ve spent three or four years exposing yourself to different situations.” For this partner at inèdit, in addition to this trust, “coming from doing a doctoral thesis, where you work a lot for little money, has made us very resilient.”

“For me, the secret is that we believe very much in what we do,” says Garcia. Also, the involvement of the team in a project that “everyone feels is their own” and that makes “them give their all,” in the words of Gasol. In this line, for Oliver, the key is “being in a unique project that is yours, and that you are building, and that makes you want to continue and, if there is any difficulty, you want to overcome it.”

“We will be what we want to be”

When asked to the five managing partners how inèdit will be in the future, they all respond unanimously: “We will be what we want to be.” Farreny is the one who elaborates the most on the answer: “We want to be able to live doing something that fulfills us and generates positive impact, and our challenge is to continue generating impact by adapting to the market’s needs; and if there are demands in the market that do not generate positive impact, we will not pursue them. Our challenge is to find the path that allows us to progress and evolve while remaining true to our general idea, which is to do things for the common good.” To this, Martínez adds: “And to do them well and take care of the team.”