The MacDiarmid Institute held its annual meeting at the University of Auckland this year. This year’s theme was ’How to make money from your $cience’. Our students and post-docs participated, along with a number of students from Singapore. The science students were taught how to write a business plan, then put into teams together with a student from the University’s business school. Each team was asked to brainstorm a business idea to present to a ‘dragon’s den’ panel.
Now, we don’t expect all our students to become hot shot entrepreneurs (although a good many of them do want to, and no doubt will), but even those who remain in academia will find the ability to present a sound business case to be essential.
On the day, the teams pitched concepts ranging from long-life ice cream to rapidly switchable, tintable coatings for glass. The team that won had an idea for a fetal health monitoring device. In the end, I think everyone enjoyed themselves immensely. We will be preparing a podcast based on interviews with the students during the event so you can hear what they really thought!
One session of the meeting was a talk from Basil Sharp, a University of Auckland economist who mused on why New Zealand’s patenting rate was so low when its number of researchers was so high. (He suggested ‘market failure’, but if you read this blog you will know that many of our ‘researchers’ are not scientists or engineers.)
We also had a talk by Brett Wells from Aeroqual who discussed the fun of successfully running a high tech start-up company in New Zealand. This was very interesting and generated a lot of discussion — it was evident from Brett’s talk that the support and patience of Aeroqual’s investors has been critical to its success. I hear many explanations for why New Zealand is not good at producing high tech start-ups, but those in the game such as Brett often don’t see many disadvantages at all.
My thanks go to David Williams from the University of Auckland for organising the event. David’s career is a case-study in making the transition from academia to industry and back (he has even done this more than once). He is certainly someone who knows how to make money from his science.