Professor Erkko Autio is to become the UK’s first ever Professor of technology transfer in the physical sciences, it was announced today. The £1million professorship is jointly funded by QinetiQ and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Imperial College’s Tanaka Business School was selected in competition with other universities to host the professorship due to its excellence in entrepreneurship and innovation and its location at the heart of Imperial College's world class science campus.
The EPSRC-QinetiQ Chair has been established to address the comparative lack of systematic approaches for the commercial exploitation of ideas in engineering or the physical sciences when compared to the growing body of academic research on the commercialisation of innovation in bio-sciences, such as medicine and pharmaceuticals. The Chair will develop robust evidence about how the innovation process differs across industries and sectors, and demonstrate how it can be optimised to ensure the successful commercialisation of ideas in the physical sciences.
“There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to innovation,” explained QinetiQ Chairman Sir John Chisholm. “It can be argued that in the pharmaceutical industry new discoveries are the key to creating value, but in other sectors a new invention is unlikely to capture significant value in itself. Few engineering companies achieve success purely on the basis of one eureka moment. Instead innovation now tends to be customer-led and it is the connection of several technical capabilities with that real need that releases value. The EPSRC-QinetiQ professorship will play a vital role in ensuring that effective models for the complex process of transferring ideas between the laboratory and market-place are made pervasive for the benefit of the economy.”
Professor Autio, a Finnish academic, has been selected for the post through an openly advertised, international competition. Prof Autio arrives from the Strategy Institute of HEC Lausanne where he was Professor in Technology Venturing and previously held a teaching and research post at the London Business School where he helped launch the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) initiative. He has served on the boards of several hi-tech companies in Silicon Valley, Europe and South East Asia and provided consultancy services for McKinsey and the European Commission.
Dr Randal Richards, EPSRC Interim Chief Executive said: "I am delighted that Professor Autio is to take the UK's first ever chair in the exploitation of physical sciences. As the EPSRC-QinetiQ Professor he will play a crucial role in ensuring that the UK's world-leading academic base becomes an even more effective driver of the knowledge economy in the future. With his combination of commercial experience and a strong track record of research on technology venturing, Professor Autio has the background required to ensure the professorship is a success."
Erkko Autio’s previous research has focussed on the rapid international growth of technology-based new firms. As the EPSRC-QinetiQ Chair of Technology Transfer in the physical sciences he will lead academic research to establish reliable mechanisms which develop wealth-creating products and services from physical sciences.
Professor Autio said: “Innovation in engineering and the physical sciences plays a key role in driving economic growth but the process appears to take longer and be more challenging than in the life sciences. I am delighted to become the EPSRC-QinetiQ Chair of Technology Transfer in the physical sciences and to play a key role in improving the process of exploiting new ideas."
The EPSRC-QinetiQ Chair is located within the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at Imperial’s Tanaka Business School. Professor David Gann, head of the group said: “The importance of technology transfer for growth in the British and global economy cannot be stressed enough. This Chair will develop new business models and policies for improving the effectiveness with which knowledge from engineering and physical sciences can be commercialised and deployed in industry. We are delighted that Professor Erkko Autio has joined the group, he is a renowned expert in international entrepreneurship”.