For the last couple of days I’ve been on a business course for researchers. We’ve been putting the Acumen into Academic, sorting the Dragons from the Deadwood, and converting PhD into USP. We’ve been taught networking skills, including how to analyse and survey a room full of people, the kind of groups that people form and why, how to handshake properly and how to say our names properly amongst other amusing team activities.
We also had workshop sessions on IP, the patent system, commercializing research, licensing, spin-off companies, and we had several presentations on case studies of companies (mainly with a biotech theme). The course of patents was incredibly interesting, it taught me not to give away any really good ideas at conferences etc., as the information would then be in the public domain and impossible to patent.
Is it important for academics to learn about business? I would say yes. I think it’s a great idea to see your research being put into application and practice. It’s also good to talk to people from industry, they have a vastly different point of view which can make you reconsider your work in a new light and with a more open mind. I’d recommend this kind of course to anyone. Even if the material hadn’t been up to scratch (which was not the case here), I met some very interesting people and made useful contacts with people of a similar mindset but working in diverse disciplines.
Physics is a little more difficult to commercialize than biotech and chemical engineering, but there are still opportunities there and we shouldn’t let them slip by because of some ancient ivory tower stigma.
By the way I’m now in New York but more on that later…. 🙂