Key conference boosts drive to spin science into real world innovation.
Spinning science out of academia is no easy feat. Nor is it new. But translating a scientific discovery into the real world remains a challenge, especially when the science is new, its use is not clear – its potential buyer, also.
Still, the drive to convert research into start-ups looks set to a boost from the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) in Berlin in July 2019. A two-day meeting titled “Researchers meet Innovators,” will help participants learn how to contribute innovation covering a large variety of roles in the value chain.
“What researchers can learn from good innovators is approaching the complex problems they are trying to solve from a more user-centred perspective,” says Nierika Hamaekers, workshop facilitator of the event. “That's what I'm going to be doing with my workshop, trying to step into the shoes off your users; to come up with meaningful and impactful innovations for them.”
The event is designed for people from research, start-up, not-forprofit, and corporate environments, who want to learn more about innovation and how researchers and innovators can synergistically and successfully work together.
Among the key innovators to address the conference is Carlo Antonini, a leading Italian aerospace engineer. He says hubs like the July event can help ease a divisive discontent between science and innovation.
“In the end,” he says, “we have to have equal opportunities as scientists and researchers to see what the next career opportunity will be.”
Since 2017. Mr. Antonini has led innovation at Apitech, an Italian startup support innovation in SMEs.
Carla Ferreri will also address the event for her success and award in 2010 as Italy's best innovator, after creating a spin-off company that has guided researchers across Europe in the field of molecular medicine.
Organisers say the highlight of the event will feature Prof. Piero Formica, who will focus on the differences between Entrepreneurialism and Business.
“Entrepreneurialism is not a machine built according to defined precepts and standards. It is an art form that, having grasped one or more ideas, i.e. one or more keys that open the doors of the future, imagines its transformation into the work that takes the name of “Company,” Prof. Formica argues.
Jenny Lind Lemaco, a leading role model for women researchers, will emphasise the leading image of female entrepreneurs, founders in start-ups and spin-offs. She also plans to address “how entrepreneurship is not only a male field but also a female environment in which women have demonstrated their leadership roles,” according to event organisers.
The Gender Equality for Mobile Researchers in Sciences along with the Italian women Innovators and Inventors Network, also contributed significantly to the conference.
Researchers from near and far gathered at the CNR Bologna Research Area, Italy, to take part in this highly-praised MCAA event. The chair of the event, Giovanna Avellis, Italian Women Innovators and Inventors Network President and member of the MCAA Gender Equality and Diversity for Mobile Researchers’ in Science working group, tells us more about it.
The heart of the workshop was to encourage fellow researchers explore the interlinks among research, innovation and entrepreneurship. Additionally, “it looked at the particular area of entrepreneurship for MCAA alumni and their future choices of career,” explains Giovanna Avellis.
This highlighted the fact that researchers do not have to restrict themselves to the academic environment. Instead they should broaden their horizons and investigate the possibility of establishing a start-up, spin-off or a small medium enterprise.
The event commenced with a welcome address given by the president of the CNR Bologna Research Area, Roberto Zamboni. “He was extremely proud of the fact that the MCAA organised and was represented at the event,” reports Avellis, who adds "Carla Ferreri, senior researcher of CNR, pointed out that this can be seen as the first of a series of initiatives called ‘Appointment with Innovation’ to be held annually at the CNR Bologna Research Area.”
Following this, participants heard first-hand experiences from researchers who have founded their own start-ups.
Natalia Balcazar from the MCAA Gender Equality and Diversity for Mobile Researchers in Science working group, and CEO of the European Environmental Project Management and Skills Route start-ups talked about the progression of her career. She presented ‘Experiences from a female Spanish entrepreneur in Germany’, where she emphasised that “if you decide to develop a business, evolution and innovation go handin-hand,” notes Avellis. She further stressed the need for research and entrepreneurship, highlighting the differences between the two. She also provided participants with an insightful dos and don’ts list for start-ups.
Carlo Antonini, from the MCAA Italy Chapter, the Bridging Science and Business working group and manager and scientific advisor of APITECH – an Italian innovative start-up – suggested that participants ‘use complexity to solve complex problems’.
“Participants enjoyed listening to his experiences, the objectives and mission of his start-up,” adds Avellis.
Carla Ferreri, who is co-founder and scientific advisor of the spin-off LIPINUTRAGEN, talked about innovation and entrepreneurship in health and biotechnology sectors. After which she presented her holistic view of membrane for health in a personalised approach for prevention and diseases. “It was here she illustrated the development of her spin-off company, starting from market preparation and scientific background to pre-launch product development, launch and post- launch product development,” says Avellis.
Giliana Gavoli, entrepreneur from Studio Gavoli, Modena Italy, highlighted her experiences of shifting between tradition and innovation. “She suggested that entrepreneurs should have great passion, a belief in their ideas, work hard and work as a team,” outlines Avellis. She also talked about the difficulties entrepreneurs face when managing human relationships and raised the issue of work-life balance.
Jessica Morelli, photographer, from Intraprese Fotografiche – a commercial and industrial photography studio – emphasised the concept of open innovation and the importance of networking. Avellis adds that, “she further highlighted that schools and universities must teach curiosity and creative approaches.”
The keynote speaker Professor Piero Formica talked about ‘Research, Innovation, Entrepreneurialism and Business’. “His talk aimed to highlight the difference between Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurialism,” explains Avellis.
His presentation was well-received, in particular his five lessons on entrepreneurship. Avellis adds, “one of the key lessons participants learnt from his speech was that research is the act of exploration that starts escaping the knowledge map drawn from past discoveries and received by researchers who are preparing to change it. Also, entrepreneurialism is the act of Innovation after Research. But not only that, since innovation is not confined within the fence of science and technology. Equally important is the social innovation descending from the cultural roots and from
the institutional framework which, to varying degrees, favours or discourages entrepreneurialism.
“Overall the event was highly-successful and went very smoothly. Participants enjoyed and played a very active role in the workshop learning more about research, innovation and entrepreneurship,” concludes Avellis.