Building bridges between science and business
The scientific world is under increasing pressure from all directions: the money that society invests has to show clear returns. ‘The best thing we can do is to go along with this development,' says Ivo de Nooijer, Director of Luris, Leiden University's valorisation institute.
Talking about genomics
Tech Talk. On 19 January at a meeting on the Leiden Bio Science Park researchers from the worlds of science and business will be discussing developments in genomics. This is just one example of Luris's activities, but they do much more. Luris aims to build bridges between research and industry as a means of helping scientists market their research findings.
Money as driver
Academics are increasingly being asked by the Dutch government and by research funding organisations such as the EU and NWO to verify the value of their work to society. That can be problematic for researchers, who often feel it is a drain on their time. Nonetheless, money has become a strong driver.
Bringing parties together
Luris brings parties together, provides information, helps researchers write research applications, looks for suitable partner companies and supports entrepreneurs in setting up new companies.
Marketing knowledge is a long-drawn-out affair. To reflect this idea, Luris recently changed its pay off from 'Technology Transfer Office' to 'Knowledge Exchange Office'. De Nooijer: ‘It's not about simply transferring knowledge or technology developed at the University, but about collaboration, often long-term collaboration. It's about building bridges between the company and the researcher.' Art Bos, knowledge broker, adds: ‘In many cases they don't talk the same language at the start; that's something they have to learn. They have to be interested in one another's world. All successful partnerships are based on a good mutual understanding.'
Many researchers regard the science agendas of the EU and the Netherlands as a threat to fundamental research. But De Nooijer believes there's no point in perpetuating the idea that research is either applied or fundamental. 'For example, the search for medicines to fight cancer - research that society badly needs - is by its nature fundamental. Not only because every research result raises new questions, but also because effective new treatments often focus on small groups of patients and their particular characteristics.' Bos added that the same development is taking place in physics.
Go along with developments
De Nooijer believes it is right that the scientific world should justify its use of the funding it receives and should contribute to resolving current problems. 'Why wouldn't you go along with that? Try to understand society's viewpoint and make sure you take it into account. Ideally we should regard society's interest in science as something positive rather than as a threat. It shows that people look to science with hope. And even if that hope is sometimes not realistic, the best way forward is to have a discussion on the issues. The time to worry would be if society turned its back on science.'
Bio Science Park
The knowledge that attracts interest from the business sector or that is the basis on which researchers want to set up a business in Leiden, comes mainly from the life sciences & health. With this in mind, Luris maintains close relations with businesses on the Bio Science Park. The park also offers a range of facilities for start-up companies, such as advice and small-scale office space and labs.