£63m contest to bring out the 'lunatic' entrepreneur in you

October 21, 2005

Olivia Corcoran describes herself as a New Age academic but without the scented candles and incense sticks, writes Jessica Shepherd.

"I'm New Age in that I'm one of a growing breed of academics who combine lecturing and writing research grants with running a company," she said.

The 35-year-old senior lecturer in forensics at the University of East London is also the director and founder of Stiex Limited.

Dr Corcoran established the science and technology consultancy after completing an MSc in science entrepreneurship at City University's Cass Business School in January. The company organises conferences where scientists can network.

Dr Corcoran said: "A lot of academics, especially the older ones, think it is dirty to do commercial work. They don't believe they should consider the financial outcomes of their work.

"However, there are a few like me who are lunatics and enjoy juggling lecturing, writing research grants and being the director of a company."

Dr Corcoran said that developing entrepreneurial skills added value in tutorials. "Students ask more questions after class when they realise you are not just in an ivory tower, you are involved business-wise in what you are talking about."

This is the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that the Government is trying to foster in universities. Its latest initiative, unveiled this week, is a Pounds 63 million competition open to academics and businesses.

The competition, for collaborative research and development projects, will formally open on November 24. Its focus is on "taking ideas out of the lab, into the marketplace" in six subject areas.

The scheme is funded by the Department of Trade and Industry's technology programme, but it also receives support from the research councils.

Details of the initiative will be revealed at regional information days to be held across the UK with support from the regional development agencies.

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury, who launched the competition, said:

"Pinpointing funding to help new ideas flourish will strengthen the transition of exciting projects from the drawing board to the marketplace."

Each regional information day will focus on one of the six priority areas announced by the Government and will include case studies and presentations.

They will be held in Edinburgh, November 28 (focus on energy); York, November 30 (waste minimisation); Manchester, December 1 (data and content storage); London, December 5 (design of electrical and electronic control power systems); London, December (materials modelling); London, December 9 (regenerative medicine).

Details: www.dti.gov.uk/ technologyprogramme

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