The missions of Universities are:
- Research and knowledge production
- Knowledge transmission through the publication of scientific articles and teaching to students and to professionals by continuing education programs
- Professionalisation of students (the goal is to enhance their employability)
- The commercialization of scientific discoveries, unique know-how and technologies developed by academic researchers
The commercialization of scientific discoveries, unique know-how and technologies developed by academic researchers can be favored by 3 axes:
- Research as a Service (RaaS also called Business-to-Science): Academic labs can offer their service to companies wishing to outsource cutting-edge research and unique know-how
- Technology-Transfer (Science-to-Business): Licensing of patents or unique know-how to companies (=> money back to University and researchers by royalties)
- Technology-Transfer by Entrepreneurship (Science-to-Business): favoring the foundation of spin-off startups fully dedicated to develop, market and commercialize the innovative technology coming from the scientific research
Universities have usually an intern department or even a spin-off company with a staff fully dedicated to support the commercialization of scientific discoveries (an IP management department or company and/or a startup incubator).
The mission of such department/company is to detect as early as possible the commercial potential of scientific discoveries in academic labs.
But it's a very difficult mission!
First, due to the diversity of scientific fields:
Formal sciences (logic, mathematics, theoretical computer science, information theory, information science, game theory, systems theory, statistics, ...), natural sciences (astronomy, and physical sciences, chemical sciences, life sciences, earth sciences), applied sciences and engineering and the last but not the least, healthcare sciences (medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacy ...).
How the management team of the IP-department/company or startup incubator could seriously have the skills, the scientific knowledge, the business and market understanding in all of these fields?
It is just impossible!
Second, due to scientists themselves.
Academic scientists are very smart and brilliant persons of course, people having followed very hard and demanding education in science. But, they usually do not get anything about economics, business administration and development, corporate finance and accountancy, corporate strategy, strategic marketing, people management, operational marketing and sales. Worst, they even do not have any knowledge in competitive intelligence and Intellectual and Industrial Property!
Therefore, the commercial potential of scientifc discoveries is totally underestimated and underused in most Universities even in the US Universities, world leaders in technology-transfer and innovation. There is plenty of gold nuggets hidden in the academic labs, and if the academia just waits passively that big companies knock at their doors, all these discoveries will continue to sleep in the computers of scientists and will not benefit to people.
Who is the best able to identify if a discovery could have a business interest?
The scientist himself of course, but only if he/she has some business knowledge.
Scientists having business knowledge and education greatly facilitate the job of the IP department/company or startup incubator staff. Scientists having business knowledge and education can actively synergize with the support provided by the IP department/company leading to a much efficient probability to bring the technology to the market, and therefore to obtain a business success.
The current solution
Scientists wishing to leave academia follow a business education such as a MBA (Master of Business Administration) only after their career as researcher, and sometimes several years later.
Time is not infinite for humans and time is money. The globalisation pushes companies to a harder competition, but also Universities. Therefore, scientific discoveries have to be put in the train of technology development and commercialization as soon as possible!
The best solution is to propose a very designed MBA specifically to students entering into a PhD program in hard science. By very designed, I mean a business training perfectly adapted to the needs of technology-based startups (in contrast to regular MBA which are more suitable for people working in large organisations).
A PhD program in hard science is a full-time research activity, therefore, the courses of the MBA should be provided at « after-work time » such as 6-10 pm during the week, but also during week-ends, and the program could last 2-3-4 years. Of course, only the most motivated PhD students will be selected to enter in a such demanding program.
What will be the benefits of a such program for PhD students?
At the end, they will have both a PhD and a MBA diploma (we can also imagine to provide a two-in-one diploma such as a PhD-MBA), but also they have acquired the knowledge to identify if the results of their PhD research could have a business potential. Even if their PhD findings is too much fundamental to be applied, they are ready to join the management team of a technology-based startup of the University incubator. A such two-in-one training/diploma will also greatly enhance the employability of young science graduates in companies.
What will be the benefits of a such program for the University?
A such combo two-in-one PhD-MBA program will greatly enhance the rate of technology-transfer, what ever the way of the transfer (by RaaS, by licensing, or startup foundation).
A such combo diploma will also greatly enhance the employability of PhD graduates in companies. Therefore, the University will have a higher reputation and a higher place in international University rankings.
A reader of this article indicated me that a such PhD-MBA already exists at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Singapore is really an amazing country and so business-friendly!
Therefore, here you have "The Proof of Concept": http://phd-mba.nus.edu.sg/
(Thanks to Mr. Zarif Haque)
If you are big company, a venture capital firm investing in early-stage tech startups or a University interested to launch a the first PhD-MBA program, contact me to discuss further this idea. We could create a foundation (a non-profit organization) to offer fellowship for a such PhD-MBA program.
With the partnership of a University wishing to test the efficiency of a such combo program, the foundation will design the educational content of the MBA, recruit professors and experts in charge of the lectures and trainings. We will establish the admission criteria and organize the interview of candidates, and we will follow the career fate of the PhD-MBA graduates.
The fellowship will entirely cover the cost of the program.
A MBA program can cost around 5,000 to 20,000 euros per year and per student (or even higher).
We will open a fellowship for 1 student in each hard science field:
1 computer scientist
1 medicine/dental student
20,000 euro x 6 students x 3 years = 360,000 euros
The goal will be to have 20 new students entering into the combo program each year ... or even more!