We face significant economic and societal concerns, such as a growing global population, climate change, raw resource scarcity, aging, and so on. These issues necessitate innovative solutions based on new study findings. As a result, our society requires knowledge and people who know how to use it in a business-like manner. The 4TU IMPACT Course helps PhD candidates learn how to commercialize academic research to make an impact. They work on examining the commercialization potential of a real technology from one of the Dutch technical universities with PhDs from the four Dutch technical universities. They also learn how to turn research into a value proposition, how to identify possible users/customers for a relevant product, and what it takes to commercialize technology as part of that product. PhDs from various technological fields are enrolled in the course.
The course started with an introduction of challenging case studies which were based on real life start-ups. This was followed by a session on market opportunity and navigation, this would enable students to choose a commercialized path for their chosen technology. The next step was to find a match between customers and future products/services, like value proposition, customer segments and relevant product features! They also worked on developing a compelling business case and testing the assumptions for the business case. A discussion on the implications of their choices to the commercialisation strategy of the technology was followed by a “reality check” on how they can take this to the next level. This course was not just academic but also a source of inspiration to the students by having fireside chats about start-up experiences and reflection on the lessons learned for the day.
How do you experience working together with PhD students from other universities and disciplines? Do you like it? Do you experience differences within the disciplines/culture, etc? What are your main insights so far?
Fatemeh Hedieh Arfa, 3rd year PhD researcher at Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment at TU Delft. Her PhD focuses on developing a methodology of adaptive transformation of the heritage buildings. She says working together with other PhD students was an amazing experience because of the multidisciplinary group of professionals. She was particularly amused by Artificial Intelligence professionals and thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with every student. She says working with different faculties gives us different approaches and solutions which she experienced during a workshop with case studies. She learnt how solutions can be creative, artistic, socially beneficial and technological. Earlier she believed it might be difficult to collaborate, until she realized they could find a common language to discuss interesting issues and even go further in that direction to find innovative solutions. It helped change her mindset about different disciplines and how their contribution could be vital.
Have you thought about how you can apply what you have learned in your own research? What opportunities do you see?
Thijs Waardenburg, PhD student at the Faculty of Engineering Technology at University of Twente. His PhD focuses on developing a method for young Autistic Adults with which they can develop technological solutions in their daily lives. He says the course was quite intense and it made him consider viable possibilities of bringing the method he is developing to the market. His main insight after this course was to start a business in the realms of his PhD work! He also looks forward to collaborating with different business partners and faculties to get the technology in the market. He says having multidisciplinary students in the course was a big plus, he experienced different cultures within all the technical universities, as well as different cultures among international PhD candidates.
How do you experience working together in a team with PhDs from other TU’s? What do you see as the advantage of such a multidisciplinary course?
Özlemnur Ataol, PhD student at the Faculty of Built Environment at TU Eindhoven. Her PhD focuses on collaborative urban planning with underrepresented groups like children and women. She is developing an approach to be more inclusive of this group in the field of urban planning. This course was special for her, as it focuses more on entrepreneurship and she enjoys working and sharing ideas with various faculties from Applied Sciences.
She mentioned how a candidate from Mechanical Engineering in this course shared his idea of tackling the material problem within airplanes and this inspired her to use this logic and apply to her own field as well! She says all the candidates are the creators of such impactful ideas and the way they present it shows their true dedication and love for their subjects. The biggest advantage of this course is its proactive and collaborative nature. She says, “Unity in Diversity!!”.
Would you recommend the course to different students? And why? What surprised you the most these past two days?
Matteo Schiavinato, PhD student at the Faculty of Agrotechnology and Food Sciences in Wageningen University and Research. His PhD focuses on how Urban cities influence behavior due to chronic levels of pollution which impacts our DNA (telomeric region), thus influencing our health status and differences in our expression. He aspires to build a natural history’s museum! The advantage of this course is to give different perspectives not only academically but in life as well, he says. “Absolute yes, 100% yes” he responds, when asked about him recommending this course to different students.
The reason he believes this course could be really helpful is to give “sparkle” of determination and acquaintance to the skills set required to be an entrepreneur. He was surprised to learn how afraid other PhD candidates are on their journey of earning a doctorate degree, they have the same fears and dreams which made him feel at ease as he wasn’t alone!
A beautiful boat trip during the lunch break through the city of Utrecht