Forward thinkers at High Tech Summit: Jes Broeng, Professor at DTU Fotonik, serial high-tech entrepreneur, and pioneer of a new model for “Open Entrepreneurship.”
Integrating brilliant technical research into an industrial context is much harder than should be expected. This has led Jes Broeng to develop an entirely new model for high-tech entrepreneurship.
“We Danes pride ourselves for being good organizers. But maybe we are actually too good! To my experience, the best high-tech entrepreneurship does not come from a fixed organization. We need to get people from the science community and from the business community to interact at a very early stage and at an informal, personal level”, Jes Broeng says, adding:
“High-tech entrepreneurship is a contact sport!”
A university is not a department store
Jes Broeng has a PhD and Masters degree in photonics from DTU. He is co-author of more than 200 publications and 18 patents. In the late 1990’ies, he co-founded the company Crystal Fibre, which later became the first DTU spinout to be sold. The company is now NKT Photonics. Jes Broeng has later co-founded four other startups. In 2012, he returned to DTU.
“My main role is to combine the extensive network which I have acquired in the corporate world with the competencies of the more than 200 researchers at DTU Fotonik. The scientists at the department are generally minded for entrepreneurship, but quite naturally they lack a feeling for what is required for a product to be of interest to a company. Only people with an industry background can give that perspective,” explains Jes Broeng, while noting that industry too needs to adapt:
“A university is not a department store, where you can look at the different shelves and purchase just what you need. High-tech innovation takes time.”
By-passing the traditional pathway
The solution is setting up informal teams mixing members with backgrounds in research, entrepreneurship and the corporate world. The scheme is backed by the Danish Industry Foundation.
The aim is to by-pass the traditional pathway, where the scientist first comes up with an idea, then spends some years developing it, later takes out a patent, until finally a company is approached.
“The universities are often introvert. People tend to say “oh, we can’t present this to anybody yet, it’s not really ready.” And when it’s finally ready, they will say “we can’t present this, because it’s too valuable, and somebody might steal the idea”. Both assumptions are utterly wrong and spring from a lack of understanding of how the business world works. The road from having an interesting idea to having a commercial product is just much longer than you would think. Also, while the scientific idea may be correct, the industrial application should perhaps be entirely different from what the researcher had imagined. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative to initiate the cooperation at a very early stage, and avoid wasting several years of development.”
Find a level playing field
Again, Jes Broeng stresses how high-tech entrepreneurship is a two-way street:
“We sometimes see established corporations wanting to own things right from the start. This approach is quite destructive in relation to high-tech innovation. To succeed, it is best to have the parties involved meeting at a level playing field.”
One such playing field is High Tech Summit:
“The spirit at the startup and entrepreneurship tracks at High Tech Summit will be just ideal for building informal, personal relations. This is what Open Entrepreneurship is all about!”
“It’s no use closing your eyes to the changes. We need to constantly keep up and try to influence the process.”
Professor Jan Madsen, DTU Compute