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Nanotechnology, Scientists, and Startups
For entrepreneurs seeking an edge in the business community, look to the field of nanotechnology. You have more to offer than you may think, according to Christopher Skipwith, an assistant professor in the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences and member of the Health Thought Leadership Network at Bentley University.
“The biggest thing I try to cultivate in my students is that you don’t need to be a scientist to have a role in a science-based startup,” says Skipwith, a biophysicist and materials engineer with a research focus in nanotechnology.
“Students can use their extensive business training to make products get to market. They don’t need to be formally-trained scientists,” he says.
The nanotechnology community is also well-suited to the values held by many young people entering business today, he says. It is centered around startups, a popular career choice, and aligns on a deeper level too.
“I believe that Bentley students have an in-depth social conscience,” he says. “They see nanotechnology making a positive impact in the environmental, sustainability, and healthcare sectors. And that inspires wonderful ideas for things they can do.”
Nanotechnology, which involves the manipulation of matter at an atomic scale, has inspired all kinds of of research and technologies, and promises to leave virtually no aspect of life untouched. It is in play everywhere: in nano-enabled consumer products, such as sunscreens, cleaning solutions, detergents; in environmental monitoring of water purity; in successful drug formulations in medicine. The list is vast, diverse, and rapidly expanding.
The lesson for business students? Scientists and engineers are making amazing advances, says Skipwith, who specializes in the commercialization of nanotechnology-enabled products, but they need you in the game.
“In my opinion and in my research, I find a striking need for the application of business principles for successful commercialization.” Business people have the skills necessary to make the pivotal transition from lab skills to market skills, he says. They possess entrepreneurial savvy.
“Scientists aren’t the best at coming up with innovative business models surrounding disruptive technology,” he says. “Our students are learning to cultivate a creative mindset and come up with business models that allow nano-enabled products to get publicized and commercialized.”
The intersection of business and nanotechnology-enabled products is well illustrated by Skipwith’s research interests.
- His work involves coming up with new products that take advantage of scientific advances. “We take recent scientific publications and try to commercialize that product,” he says, referring to collaborations with other institutions, such as Northeastern University. “We’ll recapitulate the studies and try to formulate a user-friendly product with commercial value.”
- His work measures the analytical standards that are applied to existing nano-devices, and looks to improve them, smoothing the way toward commercialization. “We perform analysis of mathematical models surrounding the validation process for nanotechnology,” he explains.
- His work applies business models to the commercialization of nanotechnologies. Among other things, the research aims to determine how different policy events and the shifting public understanding of nanotechnology may change the commercialization route for different types of technology.
Speaking from this depth of knowledge, Skipwith says would-be entrepreneurs should do themselves a favor and learn more about the possibilities attached to nanotechnology. “There are tremendous opportunities.”
Dr. Christopher Skipwith is a member of Bentley’s Health Thought Leadership Network and an Assistant Professor in Bentley's Department of Natural and Applied Sciences. Dr. Skipwith also received an Innovation in Teaching award in 2016 for his innovative pedagogy work.