The business world is becoming increasingly populated by men and women who have combined their knowledge of science and business to bring new technologies to market.
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Universities have responded by offering programs with a dual focus on science and entrepreneurship . . . but not surprisingly, not all programs are created equal.
University-based entrepreneurship programs for scientists exist across a broad spectrum of disciplines and fields. Consequently, not all programs will be appropriate for every scientific entrepreneur. The key is to identify a program that offers the training and hands-on experience you need to achieve your goals in both science and business. With that in mind, here are some questions that need to be answered before you can make an informed enrollment decision . . .
Is the program weighted toward science or business?
Some university programs are designed to create business-savvy scientists while others seek to create science-savvy entrepreneurs. This difference may seem inconsequential, but it can have a significant impact on your ability achieve your objectives. For example, an individual with an advanced degree science will benefit more from a program weighted toward business. On the other hand, a person with only an undergrad degree in science may be more interested in a program that emphasizes the scientific aspects of commercialization.
Is it a degree or certificate program?
Entrepreneurship program for scientists are an emerging field of study. Some universities got onboard with these programs early and now offer full-fledged degrees for students, usually at the graduate level. Other universities, especially those who have just entered the field, offer certificates rather than degrees. Degree programs are typically more rigorous and more valuable than certificate programs. Additionally, degree programs have the benefit of providing educational credentials should you ever decide to leave the entrepreneurial arena to pursue employment in someone else's company.
Is the program academically rigorous?
It's also important to make sure the program is academically rigorous enough to be worthwhile. As the field continues to gain popularity, an increasing number of programs will populate the market. Some of these programs will be legitimate, while others will be shams interested primarily in taking your cash. Any program worth its salt will provide comprehensive training in math and statistics, innovation, opportunity assessment, business planning, and (of course) leading-edge science. A correspondence program is rarely – if ever – capable of delivering the quality of education the field requires, so your choices should generally be limited to in-residence programs.
Does the program have a field component?
The nature of entrepreneurial education for scientists necessitates a hands-on learning experience. The best university programs require their students to participate in field education components, pairing them with researchers, companies, or investment firms who actively bring technological innovation to the marketplace. While in the field, students are able to observe real-world applications and participate in various facets of the commercialization process. In many cases, students are even given the opportunity to develop relationships with contacts that will be invaluable in achieving their own goals in science and business.