A new academic model for entrepreneurship
I believe that universities have a problem.
They are very capable of training students to be good researchers, and being advised by professors, they are trained to follow research directions and produce research results. Most are trained with an academic career in mind, and thus when they enter the industry without a leadership mind, they tend to become a tool to the machine, a “lab-rat”.
Universities should instead teach students to become leaders. Not all want to or can be leaders, but the training can only open more doors. To train a leader we need to bring out the goals and aspiration of the individual aimed at making an impact. Those traits will ensure that the student cultivates her own goals, forms team to realize those goals, inspire others, and ultimately create new value.
The standard academic model today is:
- teach on research field and foundations
- work on innovative research
- publish innovative results
- raise funding for new research
It is a model that works for the pure academic mind, driven to always innovate and be a leader in an academic area.
This is a not a path for everyone
Issues with the standard academic model are:
- not everyone can be a research leader
- true innovation is a random search — may or may not happen!
- can follow research rabbit-holes that are not impactful
- forcing publications leads to incremental work, too much effort on wording importance, and too little actual importance in applications
- writing 10 proposal to get < 1 is not efficient
There is another path for the academic that has propensity for entrepreneurship and leadership in applied research and applications.
The idea is to focus on nurturing startup leadership teams, that can use the best and newest research tools to solve problems “for the real world” (how I hate this expression — but meaning the problems someone wants to pay you to solve!).
Why bet your life on some super difficult target, being the leader in a research field, when one can use the research products of the best minds in the world to solve an actual problem, create new applications, and benefit from this exciting work?
A benefit for a university is that a person with these skills can help and find the most talented founders on campus, and entice promising students to the advantages of a startup career. They can connect researchers in key fields of innovation with a prospect of creating useful products out of their research results.
NEW proposed model:
- teach how to find innovation gaps and problem
- learn to solve the problem in the most effective way
- work on applied research for solving a customer problem
- use innovative research to create new startups
- find key members, nurture and bring up startup teams
- raise funding for startup and applied research
- publish applied research
Teaching can be:
- exploration to find gaps, interview industry leaders and managers, find what problems are worth solving
- study and develop the best approaches to solve problems with state-of-the-art research — this is not easy!! It takes the right person that has deep knowledge in the field and understands the issues
- find products that customers want to use and pay for
- uncover the overlap between state-of-the-art research and effective applications
- create a successful startup team — with more emphasis on solving the problem and less on business paper castles
- learn how to get funding for the startup
- how to set up a successful team
- how to efficiently plan daily execution
What is needed is an academic and entrepreneurship mind that has experience in both research, applications and business, and can teach and grow a team.
A new academic model: grow a team to solve a problem using the latest research products and innovation.
PS: sure this is not a model that works for everyone and also does not have 100% success rate… it is as hard to start a business as it is to innovate in research. But there is method that can help get the odds up, and build a career nevertheless.
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