An international cohort are starting their entrepreneurial journeys with intensive training and masterclasses on Imperial's Techcelerate programme.
Ten Imperial postdocs from across the College are on this year’s cohort and are expected to be joined by an undergraduate engineering student from Cairo, Abdelrahman Salem Fawzy. Abdelrahman, winner of Vodafone’s Future Changers competition, was awarded an opportunity to take up a Vodafone-sponsored place on the programme for his venture idea Dyes Without Waste.
Techelerate combines the expertise of external industry with the knowledge and enterprise ecosystem at Imperial. The team includes Paul Sturrock and Janet Murray, who have extensive experience working with technology ventures in Silicon Valley and internationally.
Sturrock co-founded FFWD London, a pre-accelerator programme for early stage startups, while Murray has coached Forbes 30 under 30 and UN Youth Assembly members.
In addition, the programme has invited a panel of external business professionals and investors to evaluate the progress of the ventures throughout their journey.
School for Entrepreneurs
The programme began this week with intensive training aiming to both teach entrepreneurial theory and refocus the participants’ strategies to explore commercialisation.
Dr Bernard Hernandez, a participant from the Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology, said: "as a researcher I am used to focusing on the technology. This programme forces me to focus on the customer and the users."
His colleague Dr Nicolas Moser added that it ensures they are "considering all aspects of commercialisation, particularly customer discovery."
The programme takes the participants out of their comfort zone in the academic setting and helps them transition to interacting with customers and business people.
Engaging with customers and other stakeholders
‘When you explain your idea, you use certain terminology that you know. However, you need to change the way you speak in order to engage with the customers,’ Dr Bernard explained.
‘You see what people who are not experts in the field don’t understand about your idea.’
This initial week of workshops led by Sturrock will prepare participants for the next stage, where they will begin interviewing a broad range of stakeholders in their industries. They’ll be supported throughout this time in a series of masterclasses, feedback sessions and business coaching from Murray.
These initial sessions have also given participants the opportunity to bond as a group, which is invaluable for networking and development of their entrepreneurial skill set.
Whilst the aim of the programme is to explore commercialisation, it is a first step on a longer entrepreneurial journey. Many participants in the past have gone on to launch successful ventures, with the support and opportunities from other departments in the Enterprise Division.
Techcelerate is the College’s premier customer discovery programme. Run by the Enterprise Division, it provides postdocs working in the ‘deep tech’ industry the training and resources to explore the early stages of commercialisation.
The programme runs for three months and aims to give postdocs the opportunity and resource to explore how their research can be commercialised, to both become profitable business and create impact in the world.
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