Description: Commercialization is the process of introducing a new product or method of production into commerce. An entrepreneur is an individual who initiates or assumes control of this venture, usually assuming a major share of the risks and rewards and an element of risk. Scientific endeavor is, at its heart, the process of discovery, therefore there are many opportunities for translating one’s work, or another’s, into products or services with commercial value. Commercialization is closely allied with technology transfer (see Technology Transfer for details), but within the context of entrepreneurship as a career involves as well a considerable focus on management itself, usually at the level of a start-up company. One of the biggest initial challenges for an aspiring entrepreneur is to secure funding, most often accomplished through small business grants, individual investors, or venture capital firms. An entrepreneur assumes as well control of human and material resources.
Advantages of an advanced degree: Most entrepreneurs leading scientific start-ups relating to health concerns have an advanced degree in biomedical science. The advantage is having the capacity to understand, manage, and communicate to scientists and businessmen alike what is often a cutting-edge scientific product or service that not infrequently continues to evolve. Moreover, it is in the pursuit of an advanced degree, or activities enabled by such a degree, such as academic research, that translational opportunities are realized. Experience in technology transfer and intellectual property can also prepare one to become a better entrepreneur.
Key competencies: The most important quality of an entrepreneur is the ability to perceive new business opportunities and unmet market needs. Other key traits are strong leadership skills, pro-risk-taking attitude, and innovation. A capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture is key to success, and excellent communication and marketing skills are also important.
On-campus student organizations: The Penn Biotech Group and the Penn Graduate Consulting Group both share interests commercialization and entrepreneurship.
First steps: Any student interested in commercialization/entrepreneurship would do well to check out opportunities provided by Penn Center for Innovation. These currently include the PCI Fellows Program and Startup Accelerator Program. Students might also consider postdoc opportunities in the ever-increasing number of scientific start-ups in Philadelphia, for example within the Science Center.
- Sonya Clemmons, Scientific Entrepreneurship is an Option | Science Careers
- Shreefa Mehta, Paths to Entrepreneurship in the Life Sciences | Nature
- David J. Teece, A Radical Idea for a Pure Science: The Scientist-Entrepreneur | Huffington Post
- Hemal Parthasarathy, Building Innovation Through Scientific Entrepreneurship | TEDMED Blog
- Dinglasan, et al., Scientific Entrepreneurship in the Materials and Life Science Industries Methods Mol Biol, 2011; 726:379-91.