CDT cohort completes commercialisation course
Third year CDT students have the opportunity to participate in a short course that helps them to identify and understand the commercial opportunities that may be associated with their research. As part of this work they also develop a business plan and pitch, to help them understand the various aspects of commercialising innovations.
This year the course for NOWNANO students was run again by Simon Howell, an experienced tech entrepreneur. After three decades of starting and growing successful consulting, product development and system integration companies, Simon is able to intersperse the 'theory' of creating a new venture with lots of practical insights and tips.
Some students are able to recognise the commercial value of their research, and base their project and pitches on this: others (particularly the theoretical physicists) seek inspiration from the world around them. All then come together to present their plans and pitches, which also helps them to understand how to present technical concepts to non-technical audiences – a very valuable skill.
The course is demanding but fun, and really provides a great introduction to starting a new company. This year a small prize was offered by Simon for the best business pitch, which was won by Livia Cricia. She recognised the long timescales and significant risk that would be associated with commercialising her own research in biomedicine, and so instead chose to 'commercialise' the use of Graphene in her passion for motor sport and rallying – identifying roll cages as a clear area where 2D materials could add value. She was particularly good at recognising the importance of validating her ideas with potential customers, and organised an international survey of rally drivers and mechanics to understand their interest in her business proposal (so often people sit in a lab for years developing their idea of a 'perfect product' without once listening to a potential customer, so this was a great initiative from Livia).
As well as learning about the various stages of commercialising innovations – from initial idea to a business plan, raising finance and building a team, participants learn really valuable transferrable skills, involving presentations and communication. Now we wait to see who will set up their own ventures in the future!