This chapter explores the academic as an entrepreneur, attempting to present the need for mutual respect and, possibly above all else, the necessity that the whole thing should be enjoyable.
The concept that academics should “take their ideas to market” has been with us for a very long time. Historically, though, mutterings in the common room have disparaged the (usually) senior academic trotting the world to his planning consultancies in Tokyo, London, Cape Town, and New York. How can such philandering possibly benefit the academic credibility of our august institution? Indeed, why are such miscreants never discreetly asked to resign from their positions?
Similar gossip survives to this day. However, in the UK at least the
encouragement to do the deed as well as publish the paper has never been stronger. Universities gain local credibility through reporting that their staffs have successfully taken this or that high-technology concept into a marketable product. The university “contracts office” has evolved from a quirky curiosity into a (usually) professional support body, linking academia into sources of finance and industrial exploitation opportunities. Institutional philosophy may have changed, but the academics themselves retain many of their stereotype attributes, dreamy and unmanageable (“herding cats” is the phrase often used); they are anathema to conventional business. Spin-outs, indeed the whole SME (small-to-medium enterprise) culture, shouldn’t, though, be confused with the conventional business infrastructure embraced by the corporate multinational.
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