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Mentoring programme for researchers

Daniel Lundin took part and won a huge prize.

Daniel Lundin took part and won a huge prize.

Mentor4Research is a mentoring programme for researchers with ideas they want to see if they can commercialise. One aim is to stimulate researchers into thinking more in terms of utilisation

“Researchers are given an experienced business coach they can bandy ideas about with, plus a budget for things like study tours, visiting companies, and market research,” says Claes Post at Innovationskontoret.

“The program will stimulate researchers into thinking more in terms of utilisation. For some it will lead to patents and formation of a company. For others, it will perhaps open paths to new treatment methods for serious illnesses.”

This is the seventh time the programme has been run. It’s run by IVA and Vinnova in collaboration with universities and colleges in Stockholm, Göteborg, Uppsala, and Linköping. LiU is taking part for the third time.

“The idea is not to turn researchers into businessmen. The majority of them will continue to conduct research. But through the programme, they gain insights into commercialisation, which means they can participate as the founder of a company and then pass it over to entrepreneurs who take the whole thing further,” Post says.

LiU researcher Daniel Lundin took part in the mentoring programme in 2009. He’s researching coatings and at the time was at close to finishing his doctoral dissertation.

“It was my boss, professor Ulf Helmersson, who noticed this programme. Both he and I are interested in research developments being put to use. We had developed a new coating technique that we wanted to test on the market,” Lundin says.

The technique has several conceivable areas of application. It’s of interest to the aerospace and automobile industries, can be used for solar and fuel cells, and also for coating various types of cutting and processing tools in industry.

Through the programme, Lundin was paired with business coach Johan Ahlström.

“It was incredibly useful to have someone who first of all was not interested in the technique itself, but whether it was commercially viable. He asked questions I hadn’t thought of earlier,” Lundin says.

He went on a couple of study tours to Germany to visit companies and research institutes and to investigate the needs they had. He even visited a couple of businesses here in the region.

“On the whole, it was a fantastic benefit to take part in the programme,” Lundin says.

His investigations showed that the technique was of interest commercially. But the question was: how could it go further? After the end of the programme, he sketched out a business idea with his mentor and his professor, and in June 2010 they started up Ionautics.

“It’s gone really well. We prepared carefully and had the ambition of making a profit from Day One – and we’ve succeeded.”

He hasn’t given up research, but is engaged in the company part-time.

“Even if I see myself as an entrepreneur now, I’ll still continue to have one foot in the world of research.”

For Lundin, the mentoring programme also meant that he won a prize of 100,000 SEK (10,800 EUR). The prize was awarded to the participant who developed his commercialisation ideas the most during the course of the programme.

“It wasn’t anything I thought about beforehand, so it was a pleasant surprise. Thanks to that, we got an economic buffer for Ionautics.”

Now it’s time to apply to the 2011 programme. The last date for applications is October 31. A total of 40 researchers will be selected, of which 10 will be chosen from LiU.

“What’s decisive is the person’s own motivation in evaluating different commercial paths, the project’s potential, and the opportunity to find a suitable mentor,” says Claes Post.

After the selection process, a kick-off will be held in January, a day-long exchange of experiences in May, and a wrap-up conference in October. In between, there are meetings with a business coach and study of how research results can be commercialised or otherwise be of use.

The goal is for all Swedish universities and colleges to be part of the programme by 2015.

Therese Winder 2010-10-19

Page manager: therese.winder@liu.se
Last updated: 2010-10-19