More entrepreneurship in education, research and industry
“Sometimes valorization can be a bit overrated as a process. Entrepreneurship means taking risk and that implies that things can also turn out differently from what was expected – basically there is nothing wrong with that. Valorization is about entrepreneurship, and it is encouraging to see new generations of scientists take greater and active interest in not just their research, but in practical applications, patents and starting a business. However, such topics are still underrepresented in formal education and training of young researchers. We should address that and make valorization and entrepreneurship a vital and integral part of education and research practice.
In the Netherlands, we have an amazing system to retain and develop talented researchers: the Veni, Vidi and Vici grants awarded under the innovation research incentives scheme of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). It rewards and inspires scientific excellence. We should, however, also expect candidates to think about the social application and economic potential of their research. Even better, we could create a similar scheme of incentives for the combination of scientific and valorization excellence in the context of the topsector plan. It would be a constructive way to allocate NWO funds for use by the topsectors. It also elegantly connects science push and market pull. The topsector plan emphasizes the importance of public-private partnerships. Today, most involve contract research. It should be the other way round, as well: universities and university medical centers looking for partners to help turn their research into marketable applications.
But partnership, too, is not always easy. Many Dutch SMEs are still too small to meet all of academia’s needs and corporations cannot always provide the necessary stability and flexibility. Management and policy changes preclude or even break long-term commitments, and IP discussions can be long and complicated. International companies often make better partners. Many are leaner and meaner than their Dutch competitors, quicker to make decisions and more comfortable with risk. They are prepared to invest larger sums with a less short-term focus. One AMC partner is a California-based outfit that now commissions all its research here and looks favorably upon the Netherlands as a potential production location. There are many more, and their research can bring us high-quality jobs and a fresh batch of Ph.D. students and post-docs. They can be interesting partners for Dutch SMEs, as well. And their example should inspire greater commitment, speed and flexibility – in other words, more entrepreneurship – in academia and industry alike.”
Educate, encourage and emulate
- Make valorization and entrepreneurship a vital and integral part of scientific education
- Incentivize scientific and valorization excellence
- Match international companies in commitment, speed and flexibility
Marcel Levi is Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Amsterdam – Academic Medical Center (AMC), chairman of the executive board of the AMC, and an internist at the AMC. He is vice president of the supervisory board of ZonMw (Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development).