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Tag: academia

It’s chic if you’re proud to be a geek!

Or putting the cool back into physics

I was terrified of student parties during my undergraduate years.  Not that I was ever that unsociable. But the outcome of the chat-up line was inevitable:

‘You look cute. So what subject do you read?’

‘Physics’

‘Uh. OK’ (wanders off to find another drink)

My career took me from undergraduate physics into working my way up from summer vacation work, through sales, marketing, strategy and ultimately being an MD at a couple of Oxford Instruments’ businesses.   Selling cryostats and superconducting magnets in Germany for a few years was great, but it was the sports car and expat salary that were attractive to others, not the condensed matter physics and cryogenics.

I then founded Qi3 which spends its time helping people commercialise sensing and instrumentation technology in a variety of industry sectors. I now invest through Qi3 Accelerator in early stage technology ventures. So my life has always revolved around the deeply unfashionable fields of physics and engineering.

And now, after years of being shunned at parties, I’m suddenly cool. And it’s all down to Brian Cox and the Large Hadron Collider.

Well even if it’s fashionable now, I’ve always been excited by physics. It has a unique potential to inspire, to explain the wonders of the universe and encourage methods of rigorous analysis. In my commercial world, it has the potential to generate mind-blowing market opportunities and transform society.  I’m proud to have been trained as a physicist and in awe of many of the physicists I’ve had the privilege to work with.

I’ve been invited to a party this evening. I think I’ll go.

Bursting the dam? Glasgow pioneers free Intellectual Property for industry

The University of Glasgow is to offer Intellectual Property – including ground-breaking medical and scientific research – to business and entrepreneurs free of charge.  Speeding up and simplifying IP transfer, the move will revolutionise the relationship between academic research and commercial enterprise and make Glasgow the most libertarian University in the UK for IP access.  Through a dedicated University of Glasgow website – ‘Easy Access IP’ – cutting edge innovation and patents will be immediately and directly available to those companies and individuals who can make best use of the research“.

I’m delighted to see this move from Glasgow.  Whilst it’s fair enough to be cynical, given its tie-up with IP Group and the detailed mix of Easy Access versus Commercial IP Deals, it’s at least a breach in the dam.  Whatever one’s view about individual deals, there’s a strong perception in industry that University Technology Transfer Offices have often made life several shades too difficult and expensive for entrepreneurs and businesses seeking to access University-originated IP.

This has been done before.  Famously, CERN management decided in the early 1990’s to make Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web.

CERN relinquishes all intellectual property rights to this code, both source and binary form and permission is granted for anyone to use, duplicate, modify and redistribute it“.

This noteworthy decision transformed the physical computer network into a practical and scalable means of sharing data.  Berners-Lee’s hyperlink enabled simple and instantaneous sharing of data between remote servers.

Will Glasgow’s move be as momentous as CERN’s?  Who knows?  But I hope that businesses will welcome, and, more importantly, take advantage of the offer, and that other Universities will follow suit.  Perhaps the days of the Smaug-like TTO are numbered?

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