The Intrapreneurial Researcher

intrapreneurial researcher



Research institutions, startups and entrepreneurs have been linked for many decades.  As Brad Feld explores in his book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, a research institution can be a catalyst for entrepreneurial endeavours.


Whether it be;

  • the birthplace of a startup (Google was born at Stanford University, Facebook at Harvard);
  • researcher expertise and publication of findings for all to access; or
  • the inventor researchers, creating technologies and breakthroughs leading to new drugs, products, devices, methodologies, processes, platforms and understandings for the greater good of society.

But to generalise, the majority of researchers don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurial, or  want to – even if they are making breakthroughs in their industry.

Main motivations for researchers include career progression, furthering their research area of interest, standing among their peers, publication and attraction of grant funding. Where would entrepreneurship feature in this? It doesn’t, especially when their area of expertise is thought of as not “commercial” like say drug discovery, but rather “social” – such as shaping policy or knowledge building in areas such as humanities or behavioural science.

However whether a researcher’s area of expertise lends itself to a more commercial outcome rather than a social one, all researchers can benefit by applying some intraprenuerial thinking to take a fresh look at what they want to achieve.

Thinking like a startup could bring a new perspective and provide a previously unconsidered path for greater impact – all while still meeting the underlying motivators listed above.

The next few posts will explore some case studies where researchers have approached their research with an intraprenuerial mindset which was;

  • end user/impact focused;
  • strategic in identifying and building relationships with key partners;
  • clear on how the outcomes will be delivered;
  • realistic about sustainability and ongoing capacity to scale; and
  • conscious of their organisation’s goals and strategic focus while working within its framework to achieve successful research in which results achieve a real impact.

The above approach is a truly intraprenuerial one and I hope that the examples I will be sharing, where using entrepreneurial thinking and techniques may not have initially been an obvious answer, will spark some new ideas in relation to a current or upcoming projects you may have on the go.

And if you are or know of any shining examples of intraprenuerial researchers (don’t be modest!) I would love to hear about it via Twitter @emmabeames or email emma@emmabeames.com.au.

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