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Success in science is a tricky thing to measure. The existing frameworks use journal output, number of successful PhD students and amount of grant funding achieved as metrics by which to measure scientific success.
But this certainly isn’t the only way for scientists to succeed. Once you break out of the confines of academia and into the world of business and enterprise, the criteria change dramatically.
I’ve recently been visiting people who have been winners of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies Competition. These are researchers who have developed their scientific research into a marketable product. Some ideas are already spun out into businesses, with funding and a solid business plan, others are still within their parent university, their promising product prepared and proven, but not yet part of a business structure.
There’s one thing they all have in common – entrepreneurship. Each researcher or group that applies for the competition has the spark to recognise the possible commercial applications of their science. A great deal of scientific research fails to realise its commercial potential – it falls into the ‘valley of death’ – but those that succeed usually have someone with vision and determination pushing them through.
The Emerging Technologies Competition recognises these people early in their career, but with the Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year award, we hope to identify those who have leapt the deadly valley and landed on secure footing. The award recognises their achievements and encourages others to do the same, to see the potential in their research and to understand how to make it happen.
Science needs diversity. And a diverse way of defining scientific success will help to spur further scientific developments and inspire the next generation of scientists. Of course we celebrate the Nobel laureates and those that expand our understanding of the world through their research, but we should also celebrate those who extend science into the commercial arena.
So do you know anyone who has successfully bridged the valley of death? Someone who saw real commercial application in their research, and demonstrated the determination needed to see that potential through? If so, please nominate them for the Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year award, and join us in celebrating all kinds of scientific success.