14 Insights on Entrepreneurship & Research Commercialisation at University in 2015

James Alexander
Mar 29, 2015 · 3 min read

I was recently invited to join the @BritishCouncil’s Global Education Diaglogue in Canberra, discussing ‘How can universities use their knowledge and research more effectively?’ I wanted to share some insights I overheard from the discussions. University Vice-Chancellors, Directors and Commercialisation Managers from 7 countries were represented so it was a great audience.

One of the interesting things I’ve observed when I hear students, researchers or university staff discuss research and how to ‘get it out there’ or translate it into real world applications is that commercialisation and entrepreneurship are often discussed as separate items. I think this is incorrect. I believe that entrepreneurship is the bedrock of any successful ‘commercialisation’ activities of new products or service ideas, regardless as to whether these are from research or industry.

I futher believe to foster that environment at university you must start with the students — hence why I believe student entrepreneurship is not only a way to help the careers of university graduates but also essential in supporting more succesful commercialisation of university reserach.

This was originally a tweet storm from me but I wanted to repost it for posterity:

  1. There are some clear questions about the role & performance of Tech Transfer Offices — Seen as “stopping people getting on with things”
  2. Universities TTOs have historically had over-focus on IP licensing = wrong. Most IP is useless when industry facing component is not there
  3. When a ‘Culture of fear’ develops around the TTO, this kills entrepreneurship from researchers — we have seen this in AUS
  4. However TTOs often don’t have a clear scope or budget to operate in & expected to do much more than just licensing with wrong skill set
  5. Thought question: If universities DONT count no. of patents or IP licensing fees as a metric: how well do they fare in commercialisation?
  6. Shifting gear to entrepreneurial culture at Uni: Organising researchers is often said to be like herding cats. Answer = move the food bowl
  7. Incentivisation is key in helping academics foster entrepreneurship and industry engagement — not just more papers
  8. Possibly the best KPI is the student entrepreneurship: I strongly believe you start here to change culture at Uni
  9. In Singapore: “we copy every innovation policy around the world but we’re still not there” Adaption to local context is crucial
  10. In HK its a really good environment for intrapreneurship = helping global companies.Thus lack of startup desire from students
  11. In Japan: 3rd Valley of Death around taking new product to market but Uni Venture Capital firms has helped change culture on-campus
  12. Key insights: University entrepreneurship is a GLOBAL problem. Policy should not obstruct global collaboration
  13. Old mentality of academia being only about research and business always being shortsighted is not true and hurtful to progress
  14. Finally: We’re in the early stages of fundamental change in the mission of universities. This is an exciting debate.

Big thanks to @BritishCouncil for organising the Global Education Dialogue #GED. More about the conferences here.

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James Alexander

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On a mission to create more founders. Co-founder at Galileo Ventures & INCUBATE, Australia’s largest university startup accelerator.

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