One of my personal drivers has always been to push for innovation and the impact of research in people’s lives. In particular, trying to bridge the gap between the academic and business ecosystems has been a common theme for me because I believe true impact tends to exist in that intersection. One clear example of this is Signal AI’s growth and impact, including our university collaborations, over the past decade. The newest iteration of this lifelong goal is my new position as the Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) at the University of Essex where I will support the University’s staff and students on their entrepreneurship journey. Hopefully, I will be able to help new entrepreneurs avoid making some of the many mistakes I have seen and made over the last decade.

The University of Essex has a longstanding connection to myself and Signal AI. It was through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) that I started working on a project that eventually became Signal AI. Also, many of Signal’s data scientists and visiting researchers came from the university. This EiR position represents a continuation of the University of Essex’s growing entrepreneurial and innovation activities in recent years. Among other initiatives, Essex is the leading university in the UK for KTPs with over 40 active projects worth over £10m. It also has a dedicated Startups team offering training, support and funding opportunities to its community of student and graduate entrepreneurs, and has invested over £77m into its Knowledge Gateway research and technology park on its Colchester Campus, which forms a regional hub for innovation. The University’s investment platform, Angels@Essex, has also assisted 360 businesses to get investment ready, registered over 120 investors and facilitated £21m of investment for 39 innovative start-ups across the UK.

In terms of the EiR programme itself, my goal would be to ensure academics and students at the university have the right skills and knowledge to create and initially run a start-up. The program will focus on providing enough knowledge in each and all of the critical aspects of an early stage company. For example, effective idea validation, fundraising, hiring, commercialisation and go to market strategies. Additionally, the program should empower the entrepreneurs-to-be with the right tools to allow them to dive deeper in some of the specific areas when needed in the future. In order to accomplish this, the programme will be based on three pillars.

  1. Define a baseline and understand the main pain-points: Understanding better the current entrepreneurship skills and resources at the university and its networks. This includes the perception of the staff and students on where I could be more helpful. 
  2. Take advantage of other stakeholders across the university: The university has a rich network of people related to entrepreneurship and innovation. It is my intention to complement and work closely with these groups in order to maximise our impact.
  3. Knowledge transfer from the wider startup ecosystem: The program will have a personalised coaching and mentoring aspect provided by myself, as well as targeted events with well-known founders and operators in the community to discuss and share some of their experiences in different aspects of entrepreneurship.

The Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) scheme is a fantastic initiative to promote the knowledge sharing between industry and academia and I am honoured to have been awarded this position within the University of Essex. I am excited to be able to support university staff and students become more entrepreneurial and cannot wait to see the impact of the programme.

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