How to inspire commercialisation in research scientists?
This is not a rhetorical question – it is a real problem that I don't have the answer to.
How to get people from the pure science elements of education to engage meaningfully with commercialisation either as academics or for a non-academic career choice.
Education across Europe defines people very early as scientists and encourages focus on the discipline, sometimes preventing access to other subjects which encourage entrepreneurship. Combinations such as Economics and Chemistry are rarely offered as Joint Honours – particularly in the UK.
So how do we enable our scientists to truly explore their ability and affinity for business? Not just in understanding the financial aspects of funding or running a business, but to explore their natural ability to communicate, their aptitude for sales, for marketing, for creative thinking and new product design?
Too many scientists think that sales are unimportant, and lack ethics; that marketing is all baloney and unnecessary but the reality is without sales there is no company or money making opportunity - even to fund their further research.
Business games such as Young Entrepreneur Scheme are great vehicles to allow academic engagement with commercialisation, but overall only a low percentage of students take this opportunity, often because they don't understand or appreciate the benefits of the interaction with others from different institutions or even just how a change of scene and time out of the lab can open your mind to new ideas.
Sometimes academic supervisors or teachers in high schools themselves don't appreciate the benefits of these types of event for widening self-knowledge and “putting people in touch with their non-technical skills” and can't support and encourage, or demand, participation from their pupils.
So how do we do it? How across Europe in particular, do we manage to bridge the gap between science and sales and get more people to realise that sales and marketing careers exist, are enjoyable and allow them to use their science to the benefit of themselves and their companies.
It is a fact that the companies need them – 80% of small companies fail because of lack of sales not because their technology didn't work.
Scientific companies formed by scientists emerging into the commercial world can struggle to get the initial sales and key relationships established. Here are some handy hints and questions to pose internally before taking the plunge to create those important first impressions.
Are you sales ready? Have you got a product or service that can be shipped or rolled-out tomorrow? Does it come complete with instructions? Have you tested this? Often science companies have solved the scientific issues and problems but not completed the look, feel and marketing elements of the product and bounce into sales without having prepared fully.
When you approach potential customers are you talking science or finance? Have you moved on from talking to historical colleagues and contacts about the features of the product, how to make it the ideal product and started talking about when they want to purchase?
Who is doing sales? Is this a professional scientist or a professional sales person? Have they got the confidence, formal sales training and the contacts to get the sales pipeline formed for you. Are you doing it yourself because it is a complex product? Have you taken some basic sales training to provide you that knowledge of process and approach to sales issues?
How many deals have you done ever? How much revenue have you created over the years? Do you really have the negotiation skills and the mind-set for chasing purchase paperwork to be a successful sales rep or do you need to bring in a dedicated member of the team?
Have you set concrete financial targets? If you own the business, if you are the manager as well, then who is going to assess the reality of your targets and hold you to account if they aren't met? It can be very useful to have a separate mentor just for this to hold your interest on the financial progress as well as the scientific progress of the company.
If you are finding any of these aspects difficult please contact the Strategic Scientific team and we can talk you through the pain barrier.
So much can be told about a company from their logo. It is often the first impression that is made and it is the lasting initial impact. Use of colour inspires emotion and therefore can lead the viewer to trust your company more. Colour psychology and impact on company perception is something that Graphic Designers work with all the time.
Take the IKEA logo, well known across the whole of Europe, but what is it telling you – that this company is from Sweden and they are proud of the reputation of Swedish and Scandinavian design.
How about the AstraZeneca logo? That conveys a knowledge of protein structure and therefore their interest in drug design and creation.
Unilever? The inclusion of animal images and bubbles not only symbolises all parts of the Unilever research understanding but also portrays their environmental interest, though washed in a scientific blue rather than biology green colour.
The silver, blue/green colours of SSC's logo represent expertise in information for the technology and bio-sciences areas by inspiring calm, trust and strength emotions. The logo shape conveys a pathway and supporting C indicating our skills in assisting others reach their goals.
So what does your logo say about your company?