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Scientists get lessons in business

Scientists are being shown how to turn ideas into commercial products

(Keystone)

A new course which teaches scientists how to turn their inventions into commercially viable products will soon be available across Switzerland.

The course has been running at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne for over two years and aims to help scientists think like business people.

Launched by the Institute in March 2000, the CREATE Switzerland course will be available in Zurich for the first time on December 9, and in Basel and St Gallen at a later date. It will be the first national course of its kind in Europe.

Figures provided by the Institute show that 95 per cent of the high-tech products launched in Switzerland are brought to market by scientists and engineers who are mostly new to the business world.

The Institute says up to 67 per cent of these new businesses fail, largely because of a lack of acumen on the part of the owners.

Different mindsets

"The mindset of the academic is very different of the mindset of someone in business," said Professor Jane Royston, Chair of Entrepreneurship at the Institute.

She told swissinfo that a general shortage of entrepreneurs in Switzerland meant that scientists have few business influences to draw on.

"There isn't a culture of entrepreneurship in Switzerland. That is what stands in the way of us turning what is an amazing wealth of innovation into an economic benefit for the country," Royston said.

Between two worlds

CREATE aims to motivate scientists to enter business by helping them realise the practical applications of their inventions on the outside world. As a result, they often find a drive to succeed in business that they didn't have before.

But once scientists decide to launch a business, they will have to choose between the lab and the office.

"Scientists have to choose between academia and entrepreneurship. The company rarely takes off until they make an active choice," Royston told swissinfo.

swissinfo, Joanne Shields

In brief

The Federal Institute of Technology is launching a nationwide course teaching scientists how to think like business people.

The course was launched in Lausanne in March 2000, and will begin in Zurich on December 9. Courses will start in St Gallen and Basel at a later date.

A lack of business acumen among scientists, and a shortage of entrepreneurial role models, are seen as the main reasons for a high failure rate of new businesses.

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