By Thomas Møller Christensen, AAU Innovation. Translated by Nicoline Nørgaard Eskildsen, AAU Innovation.
From research to business. That is one of the key concepts behind 'Research to Business', an overall concept for a series of new courses and inspirational events at AAU Innovation.
The purpose of the activities is to enhance the ability to transform research in society. Either as entrepreneur or by bringing knowledge to businesses and by that creating a stronger bond between the world of academics and start-ups as well as business.
‘Although we are already getting a lot out of our research, we can still get even better. This is why we have initiated a number of activities and courses aimed at increasing the commercialisation of research at AAU,’ says Claus Skaaning, who is a business developer at Supporting Entrepreneurship at AAU (SEA) and one of the principals behind ‘Research to Business’ together with Gert Spender from the Technology Transfer Office, both departments placed under AAU Innovation.
‘We do this, among other things, by matching researchers with business developers or by adding talented students as an innovation resource. In addition, we organise inspirational events and add business competencies, network, support and general know-how about commercialisation of research.’
From science to value creation
One of those who have signed up for ‘Research to Business’ is Anca-Simona Horvath. She is postdoc in Art and Technology at AAU and is pleased that there is now an increased focus on commercialisation and business understanding among researchers.
‘There is often a distance between our academic research and “the market need”. It is therefore important to know what it takes to overcome that distance and understand the context between science and value creation. Even if it is not yourself who has to create the link between the two at the end of the day,’ says Anca-Simona Horvath.
Before she became a postdoc, Anca-Simona Horvath spent a period outside the academic world in a start-up business. This opened her eyes for the big difference between research at the university and in business. And for the importance of understanding the market potential of your research.
‘As a researcher you tend to believe that everybody understand the importance of your research area. But that is often not the case. We as researchers should therefore have a sense for how mature the market is for a given technology – and what that means in addition to approach and resources,’ explains Anca-Simona Horvath.
Anca-Simona Horvath underlines that not all researchers need to have this mindset. Although understanding a business is important, it is also necessary to hold on to pure research free of commercial interests.
Valuable knowledge for society
But why is it even necessary to help researchers developing and commercialising their ideas?
‘It is important not to forget that knowledge will not be valuable for society unless we succeed in transforming it. There are great potentials in using research from the university to create growth. But it is two different worlds. Research creates opportunities but not entire products. It is a process which requires many different qualifications at different times during the process,’ explains Claus Skaaning.
Studies show that less than 5% of PhD’s make a career within science. Instead they pursue a career in other places. It is therefore, according to Claus Skaaning, obvious to base a future career on the research of your PhD.
‘But if you as a researcher have been deeply focused on academic research for years, it is not necessarily a straightforward decision to change the academic carrier to a life as an entrepreneur. Therefore, the opportunity of consulting with people who have knowledge and experience about this world is important as well as getting the help needed to kick-start the process.’
‘Research to Business’ is a part of the project, Science for Society. In collaboration with the project Open Entrepreneurship and with financial support from EU, the project activities aims to prepare PhD students and researchers as well as possible for a career in the private sector – either with their own business or as scientific consultants with focus on innovation and commercial aspects.