Nine researchers participated during this year’s Mentors2Research, M2R. The program is aimed at established Chalmers researchers, and focuses on turning research into utilisation. Each participant is matched with a mentor from the business sector. The goal is new insights and expanded network, and a number of goals were set at the beginning of the year for each researcher.
– We have had an exciting year. The scientists have been working actively with their mentors, and they all have been through an exciting journey, says Björn Sjöholm, project manager.
Three participants won prizes for their efforts: Göran Johansson, professor at the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience, and Dina Petranovic and Elin Esbjörner, Associate Professor and Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering.
– This is of course subjective, but I would say that Göran perhaps made the longest journey. He has really broadened his understanding of utilisation. Dina and Elin knew a lot about utilisation to start with, but from a research perspective. Now they are able to see these questions from a different standpoint and have developed their network, Björn Sjöholm says.
Göran Johansson believes he, as a basic researcher with little experience of utilisation in the form of start-up companies and patents, has traveled ”at least 1000 times the initial distance”.
– And the jury obviously didn’t disagree. I broadened my network considerably. Previously I mostly knew people who worked in companies. Getting to know people who own, run and finance companies really broadened my view of how society works!
Dina Petranovic thinks she won the prize because she set ambitious plans, worked hard and grabbed the opportunity to learn new things, leaving no stone unturned. Yet, she was surprised to win.
– There were so many interesting people, with cool ideas and plans, she says.
– I learned so much, for example that utilisation is not the same thing as innovation, which is not the same thing as patenting. I also learned how much time, energy and money certain things take, and how to evaluate what is worth it and what is not. Also, this was a great opportunity to do a personal journey, to learn about ourselves, how we work, what we do, why we do it. I think the insights I have developed will be valuable for a long time.
After finishing the M2R program, Elin Esbjörner now have two ongoing collaborations with companies; one of them has already resulted in a manuscript that will be submitted for publication shortly.
– I am grateful for what I have learnt and how much I could develop with support of M2R and my mentor. But of course I am also happy for the prize, and I am curious what I might learn from it: it is a cash contribution to participate in any utilisation conference during 2017. This will be a new experience for me, she says.
– I found that my knowledge is valuable to industry, sometimes in unexpected ways. I also experienced that collaboration with industry enriches my own core research and creates synergy.
The 2017 M2R program will start shortly, and 20 applicants have registered. Björn Sjöholm is interviewing all candidates and pick out the participants based on, among other things, their commitment. And the program is undoubtedly a great success:
– The participants have rated the mentors, and they got an average of 8.7 on a scale of ten. Each year we also have a 24 hours workshop, and the workshop always gets 10 out of 10. It’s so great to work with these smart people and take part of their commitment, Björn Sjöholm says.
Text: Mia Malmstedt
Pictures, from top: Göran Johansson, Dina Petranovic, Elin Esbjörner