Entrepreneurship experts visited Israel to help scientists and researchers to recognize breakthrough ideas.
If you’re in business, the word “entrepreneurship” has many associations—founders, startups, visionaries, people who look at problems differently and find solutions in improbable places.
If you are more technically oriented, “entrepreneurship” may not be in your vocabulary at all.
And for Erick Mueller, executive director of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business, that’s a problem, because technical professionals are often responsible for the kinds of innovations that can be game-changers in business.
“Teaching scientists and researchers how to better recognize and evaluate ideas from an entrepreneurship lens offers huge potential for positive impact—whether that’s a breakthrough medicine, a cure to a horrible disease or better security protocols to keep kids safe online,” Mueller said.
That’s what brought the Deming Center to the Weizmann Institute of Science for a workshop in entrepreneurial thinking for staff scientists at the Rehovot, Israel, research university.
“Bringing that innovation and entrepreneurship lens to scientists is maybe not the first community that comes to mind when thinking of our workshop participants,” said Mueller, who designed the Idea to Action with his Deming Center colleague, Brad Werner. “But there’s so much potential for these researchers to create impact that truly changes the world for the better.”
High potential for impactful business activity
Mueller and Werner were tasked with teaching the career researchers at Weizmann’s BINA unit—short for Bridge-Innovate-Nurture-Advance—the business side of the life-altering discoveries they already make, hoping these scientists will become more adept at recognizing the big ideas that can impact humanity, and developing them into life-changing applications.
With its high ratio of entrepreneurs and venture capital in proportion to the population, Israel is known in the tech world as “the startup nation,” making it an ideal environment to plant the CU Deming flag and offer scientists ways to identify entrepreneurial opportunities and realize their technological potential.
“From my experience, I know ventures have the highest chance of success when you have a talented group of business as well as technical leaders,” Mueller says. “You can’t have a successful venture without those two disciplines. The cross-disciplinary nature of business creation always results in a greater chance of success.”
Weizmann is mentioned alongside schools like Harvard and MIT when it comes to research, but the workshop “aimed to shift our focus from the basic science that we do in the lab towards understanding how to take our unique idea and turn it into a product,” said Gili Ben Nissan, an associate staff scientist in Weizmann’s biomolecular sciences department. “We learned the various aspects of commercialization, and we were inspired to fly with our imagination to higher grounds and realize that if we have a good idea and the ambition to make a difference, it is possible.”
That’s exactly what Sharon Fireman, who heads BINA’s translational research and innovation unit, was looking for in partnering with Deming. BINA, she said, wants to “assist the staff scientists in expanding their knowledge in this field, expose them to basic concepts in the industry and enable them to create a network that allows collaborating on new innovative projects.”
At Deming, that’s all in a day’s work.
“Entrepreneurship is a mindset, not just a job description,” Mueller said. “By definition, entrepreneurship is solving problems in the world and empowering people to have a great life.”