Switching between the academic and business worlds it is fascinating to see the similarities. Jumping from judging business plans in Padua to chairing the Austrian NANO Initiativeâ€™s Science and Technology Advisory Council would, at first sight seem to be completely different. Although the source of the funding may differ, much of the potential success, or otherwise of any project often boils down to just one thing, management.
Itâ€™s an old adage that while a good management team may be able make a silk purse out of a sows ear, if a company has poor management, then it may not matter how good the technology is, the company will fail. A sector head of a blue chip venture capital fund recently commented that only 5-10% of the value of a company comes from the technology, using Microsoft Windows as an example of how superior technologies fail against superior management (and the odd stroke of luck). As a convert to Macs in the last year, I was amazed how much better the machines are than PCs, at least for the sort of things I need to do. Coincidentally, several recent high level nanotech meetings have seen percentages of Mac users way above the current market share â€“ perhaps someone can shed some light on the demographics of Macs in the scientific and VC communities?
When it comes to funding scientific projects, the people behind them can be as important as the science. While there is no shortage of good science, harnessing it together into a project that can be funded and managed with the goal of transferring it to industry takes a special kind of talent. It is a rare talent, but one that should be encouraged. As we move into an age where transnational funding becomes ever more commonplace, we will need more academics who can make this shift to management.