Two experts share their thoughts on how academia can be more business-savy.
Jason Li-Ying, Technical University of Denmark
Academic culture: The walls between various disciplines, between research and education and between institutions are often too high.
How to fix? By cooperating closely, for example by exchanging students, providing joint PhD courses and jointly developing papers.
Business environnent: Some funders are very selective and competitive, killing many projects early on despite their potential.
How to fix? With alternative funds that have lower thresholds and offer smaller amounts, allowing uncertain business ideas to test the waters.
Focus and language: Less advanced regions and those undergoing major changes lack the resources to innovate in a broad range of topics.
How to fix? Focus on a specific sector that will support the formation of local, specialised innovation clusters.
Joachim Henkel,Technical University of Munich
Academic culture: Many academics see research as an end in itself and take a negative view of its commercialisation.
How to fix? By teaching that it’s OK to think about entrepreneurship. Academics tend to focus on complex topics, but the best ideas are often very simple – like WhatsApp.
Business environnent: Patents are issued far too liberally. Products based on complex technologies may have 50,000 of them.
How to fix? With a stricter issuing system. And by removing conflicts of interest: the European Patent Office is currently financed by the fees it collects.
Focus and language: Collaboration in Europe is hampered by the lack of a common language, unlike the U.S. or China.
How to fix? Use English as the default language, and encourage student exchanges.