Entrepreneurial Science in an Academic Setting?
by Molly Sutherland
“A high-impact, problem-based approach to the world’s biggest problems that produces measurable results in terms of public benefit,” (Engines of Innovation pg 31). This is the definition of entrepreneurial science, but the question remains, can it be achieved in the academia environment? Not only is it plausible, it has in fact already happened in some labs. Now it needs to continue to become a part of reality in all major research universities as “science plays a central role in addressing all of [the world’s biggest problems],” (pg 30).
First, let us take a look at existing places incorporating entrepreneurial science. Both the Langer and DeSimone labs are excellent examples. By creating labs centered on the definition of entrepreneurial science, both of these labs are taking what some call “pure” science to the next level. They are taking the conclusions found in traditional science and taking action in an entrepreneurial fashion by creating businesses and spinouts to introduce their science and innovations into the public market. An example is seen through Joe DeSimone’s creation of the company Liquidia to commercialize the PRINT applications in order to make a greater positive impact on society.
So entrepreneurial science has happened, but can it become a reality in all of society not just a handful of labs around the world? The short answer is yes. There are several key factors to creating an entrepreneurial environment in the lab. First, and foremost, is introducing interdisciplinary studies into the scientific world. Reaching across different branches of science, and non-scientific fields, creates collaborate leading to new, unique, entrepreneurial solutions.
Second, the introduction of business into the scientific world will nourish this entrepreneurial spirit as businesses can take the life-changing products and introduce them into the public market. As Langer said, each year starting companies becomes easier and more accepted because the combination is proving to be more powerful with greater results and benefits than science alone. Lastly, although society and the environment at universities are changing to accommodate entrepreneurship, it has been too slow of a movement. It is necessary to further adjust their views in order to encourage and nurture an entrepreneurial scientific mindset. This is needed especially within the universities as both students and professors need to recognize college as a time for more than just preparation for landing a job, but also as a time of entrepreneurship, for finding new knowledge, for solving some of the world’s biggest problems.
The bottom line is entrepreneurial science can be achieved in the academic setting as it has already happened and is gaining more and more momentum. The struggle becomes making this mindset accepted, even typical, in modern society. It may be a difficult and huge shift, but the vast benefits will outweigh the effort as this is creating a shift toward solving the world’s biggest problems.