The future belongs to the entrepreneurial mind!

Experiences, advantages and challenges from PPP PhD projects made up the focal point of a “get-together day” in Oslo on 25 August 2010, staged by NordForsk and facilitated by Monica Lund and Maria Nilsson of NordForsk.
 The future belongs to the entrepreneurial mind!
Some 25 participants from the industrial sector, universities and government institutions, as well as PhD students from all five Nordic countries, gathered to discuss their experiences and future expectations. The Private Public Partnership (PPP) PhD programme was initiated by NordForsk in 2008.

A PhD student, an enterprise and a university, located in two different Nordic countries, collaborate, and NordForsk is currently funding ten projects. Six of the industrial PhD fellows held a presentation in Oslo, most of them together with supervisors from the collaborating enterprise or university.

Novo Nordisk is a global health care company, based in Denmark. Jørgen Dirach, Director of Novo Nordisk, focused on the importance of attracting the best brain power. “Diversity is the main benefit from a scientific industrial PPP PhD program,” he said. “The industry supervisor acquires useful contacts in the academic world, the academic supervisor in the industrial world, and the PhD student gets acquainted with both worlds.”

Novo Nordisk has worked with fellowship programmes since 1998. Private Public Partnership means that they can expand their activities in this field and attract more brain power.

Professor Már Másson of the University of Iceland illustrated how academic work can benefit businesses and society at large: “Academia can provide know how, solutions, human resources, new ideas and innovation to the industry. At the same time, academics can gain the opportunity to publish more and also get easier access to patents and employment opportunities. To the funding agency the benefits are improved research and innovation.”

According to Másson, one challenge is to identify the right projects to match the needs of the participants. Màsson has personal experience from PCI Biotech, Oslo, and a project aiming at improved cancer treatment.

Denmark has had a national PPP PhD programme since 1970. Ditte Teresa Mesick of the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation explained that the main purpose is promoting research innovation in the private sector. 65 per cent of the industrial PhD grantees work with R&D when completing the programme.

Former PPP PhD fellow Henrijette Richter is Investment Director at Novo Seeds and has six years experience from working with venture capital. “Although I work with start-up companies, research and life science, it is all about people. That is why I enjoy my work so much.” She stressed the importance of standing out in the crowd for a student today, with international PhD programmes offering unique opportunities.

Richter eventually had a piece of advice to students: “After having finished your PhD degree, you should ask yourself: Do I want to do basic research? If yes, you should not hesitate, but carry out that for a couple of years. If not, move on to something else!”

Christian Vintergaard, Director of the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship, talked about the steps and the courage it takes for a student to start a company. Investors look for people with convincing ideas, good knowledge about market segments and unique value propositions. “The future belongs to the ones with an entrepreneurial mindset,” he said.

Jacob Alsted, a former PPP PhD student, founded the consultancy firm Haslund & Alsted in 2000. He discussed what it takes to start your own company.

“Most people are not born an entrepreneur. Creating a company is a long and social process. Necessary ideas and intellectual resources are often acquired through employment in organisations. Remember that all jobs contribute to building self confidence,” said Alsted, who undertook his industrial PhD being employed by a company. “Business and university experience combine to build social and professional skills in unique ways.”

At the end of the get-together day in Oslo, the following PhD students briefly presented their PPP PhD projects:

Anna Lundahl (Sweden)
Enterprise: Danish Technological Institute / Centre for Wood and Textile, Denmark
University: Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Project: Use of technical textiles to obtain sustainable self-cleaning building surface

Kristin Barkve Andersen (Norway)
Enterprise: Applied Plasma Physics AS, Norway
University: University of Aarhus, Denmark
Project: Optimalization of a non-thermal plasma scrubber for reduction of odour emissions from pig houses

Teemu Anttinen (Finland)
Enterprise: Wärtsilä Finland Oy/Research & Development, Finland
University: Lund University, Sweden
Project: Combustion visualization in large bore gas engines

Vivek Gaware (Iceland)
Enterprise: PCI Biotech AS, Norway
University: University of Iceland, Iceland
Project: Chitosan based Carriers for Photochemical Internalization in Cancer Therapy

Leena Liljedahl (Sweden)
Enterprise: Novo Nordisk AS, Denmark
University: Lund University, Sweden
Project: An early molecular signature of diabetic nephropathy

Steffen Sønderby (Denmark)
Enterprise: Danish Technological Institute /Tribiology Centre, Denmark.
University: Linköping University, Sweden
Project: PhD research for industrialization of thin films for fuell cell electrolytes

Text and photo: Dag Inge Danielsen

Main photo: Ditte Teresa Mesick, Jørgen Dirach and Jacob Alsted.
Photo 2: Már Másson
Photo 3: Henrijette Richter
Photo 4: Jacob Alsted
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