- Bridging the gap between science and business
A scientific or technical educational background is a strong platform to venture into the commercial world, according to Jens Petter Falck .
Associate Professor Jens Petter Falck. Photo: Private
– Our programme expands the usefulness of your technological or scientific training and makes it more resilient against changes and disruptions, says Falck, the Chairman of the programme council for the MSc in Entrepreneurship Innovation Management programme.
A physicist by training and a former long-term venture capitalist, he personally has bridged the gap between science and business.
What did you experience as the biggest change when moving from science to business?
- When I started as a consultant in McKinsey after graduate school, I had no idea what business was all about. I soon learned that as in science, business is best approached in a structured and analytical way. Intuition is nothing more than subconscious pattern-recognition developed after years of experience. I believe there are three fundamental differences.
- Firstly, while in science, you think and communicate bottom-up from details to implication, whereas in business you think and communicate top-down from the overall problem to underlying issues. It sounds simple, but it takes years to change.
- Secondly, in science, the focus is most often centred on the individual scientists’ contribution counting first-author publications and patent applications. In business, the collective effort from a cross-functional team takes centre stage.
- Thirdly, to develop a successful business is in general much more multifaceted and consequently more complicated than conducting cutting-edge science. If you are driven by taking on huge challenges, a great way to test yourself is developing a product or building a company with a global footprint!
What benefits has your scientific training given you in the commercial world?
- There are two main benefits, you are culturally bilingual and you are better equipped to evaluate technology-driven business opportunities and expose technological hypes.
- People with purely technological or purely business background often do not communicate very well. In commercializing new technologies, you face this cultural miscommunication all the time. In a company, this typically occurs between the team responsible for developing the product and the team responsible for selling the product. With a background in both worlds, you can bridge this gap, which is an essential skill for any manager in technology driven firms these days.
- Your technical and scientific insight is equally as important. In some industries, it is almost impossible to operate without necessary technical insight; the pharmaceutical industry is a great example. It allows you to evaluate the importance and feasibility of new technologies and better sort real opportunities from hypes. As venture capitalists, we would probably never have invested in Algeta if I had not had training as a physicist and could evaluate the risk associated with their technology not working.
What is the essence of entrepreneurship as you see it?
- I have a practitioner’s perspective on entrepreneurship. For me, entrepreneurship incorporates both mastering important skills and having the necessary mindset. You are not born an entrepreneur; you can learn it just like anything else. Some people are of course more gifted and naturally more talented than others.
- One aspect of entrepreneurship concerns specific skills and knowhow. This involves your ability to both assess opportunities as well as knowing how to go about realizing them. This is the easy part.
- Building the necessary mindset is more complicated. Firstly, it includes your ability to act on opportunities, not just spotting them. Secondly, you need to be able to accept, understand, and manage the reality of change and uncertainty, rather than instinctively fearing or embracing it. Finally, it requires you to meticulously execute the project to its natural completion and not giving up in face of temporary setbacks. This is the complicated part.
- The only way I know about developing these skills and attitudes is by practicing. In the venture capital industry there is a saying that it costs USD 20 million in failed investments before you become a good venture capitalist. The MSc in Entrepreneurship Innovation Management programme takes this to heart in its practice-based philosophy.