The worlds of science and business have been viewed as separate entities. Science is a dynamic and ever-evolving domain where the pursuit of new knowledge is paramount. Science is also a competitive endeavour that require a significant financial and strategic investment to deliver a sound and impactful product in the form of new knowledge that should not only serve the academic community, but also wider society. Further, although the general focus of science is not to create revenue, the knowledge created advise new technologies to benefit society and help solve the grand challenges of our era. In contrast to the knowledge outputs required in science, in a business setting, the expected outcome in terms of how the outcome will impact employees, customers and shareholders, is most important.
Lately, more emphasis has been placed on branching beyond the siloed borders of science towards more collaborative endeavours with industry to boost innovation. Whilst scientists are seen as individuals solely dedicated to expanding the frontiers of knowledge, industry or business professionals are responsible for turning new knowledge or innovations created by scientists into marketable products or services. In today's reality, these two domains are not only interconnected, but also share a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship in which skills transfer should be more nurtured and developed.
Underscored by the fact that the world of knowledge creation is facing an evolution, the time is ripe for science to add to its competitiveness and sustainability by acquiring a more diversified skillset beyond scientific acumen, and essentially one that is informed by business principles. So what are the specific business skills for researchers and scientists to help elevate your career and impact?:
Funding and Grant writing: Securing funding for your research projects is often a critical challenge. Business skills such as mastering the art and craft of compiling compelling and persuasive grant proposals that highlight the significance of your research, why it matters, and its potential impact is key. Further, financial literacy is another important skill towards developing a strong understanding of financial principles, including budget and resource management, accounting, and financial reporting, to effectively manage research funds.
Effective communication: Scientists deal with complex data and ideas. Business and marketing skills enable you to communicate your complex findings in a clear, concise, and persuasive manner to both scientific and non-scientific audiences, whether to fellow researchers, potential investors, or the public. Master the art of conveying complex ideas in a digestible manner, avoid jargon, know your audience and your objective, practice your elevator pitch, use storytelling, use analogies and anecdotes, introduce questions, build drama that lead to resolutions, explore data visualization techniques, and above all, keep your customers, the audience, engaged.
Collaboration and networking: Networking and relationship-building are core business skills critical for gaining access to resources, funding, and collaborative research opportunities. Build these skills by actively engaging in professional networks, attending conferences, workshops, and industry events and by developing relationships with potential collaborators, mentors, industry professionals, investors, and policymakers to expand your professional network.
Entrepreneurship and innovation: Many scientists today find themselves involved in entrepreneurial ventures or start-ups. Understanding business models, market analysis, and financial planning is vital towards the success of these initiatives. Explore entrepreneurship courses or workshops to grasp the fundamentals of starting and scaling a business based on your research.
Project management: Research projects, like any other business venture, require effective project management. Efficiently managing research projects, including setting goals, timelines, resource allocation, and risk management requires strong project management skills. Adopt project management methodologies to plan, execute, and monitor your research projects efficiently.
Data analytics: Acquire data protection, statistical and data mining, and open data sharing skills to derive meaningful insights from your research data to aid decision-making and innovation.
Intellectual property: Inventions and innovations often arise from scientific research. As a researcher, you may generate valuable intellectual property. Knowledge of patent processes and laws, copyright, and intellectual property protection can safeguard your discoveries or innovations and lead to commercialization.
Strategic thinking: Business and organizational development skills empower you to think strategically, align your research with societal needs, and identify opportunities for impact and commercialization. Business skills will also teach you how to assess the broader landscape, identify trends, and strategize for the future. Develop long-term strategies for your research endeavours, aligning them with broader scientific, country, and sustainable development goals as well as market demands.
Business ethics: Understand and apply ethical considerations as well as diversity, inclusivity, and equity in scientific methodology and research, especially in business collaborations, to maintain integrity and trust.
Resolving disputes: Working in science may lead to science politicking, author disputes, or personality clashes within a research environment. Training in mediation, negotiation, conflict resolution, and building a work culture motivated by shared goals, aspirations, and values can save time and energy and create an environment where the focus remains on delivering on the end goal.
Leadership skills: Acquiring leadership and managerial skills is imperative to managing a happy and productive lab team. Develop your empathy and listening skills, accept criticism, and learn how to manage people with different personalities.
In conclusion, business skills are not in conflict with your identity as a researcher or scientist; rather, they are complementary and empowering. These skills can help you secure funding, communicate your findings effectively, and even take your innovations to the market, benefitting society at large. As a researcher or scientist, investing in these skills will not only enhance your career but also enable you to make a more profound and lasting impact on the world through your research. Embrace the fusion of science and business, and watch your influence expand.