Inception of a new LBS elective called ‘Innovation to Market’

As an EMBA, a long time ago, I came to the conclusion that the best electives were those that flowed from a particular passion of the lead faculty. The elective was merely – but valuably – the outpouring of intrigue as the lead faculty assembled their thinking and often materialised in a book the following year.

For years – decades even – my passion has been the commercialisation of science. I was a scientist myself eons ago before realising that I loved commercialising technology far more than the technology itself, finding a happy niche as commercial director of UCL where my life was helping hundreds of scientists create start-ups and joint ventures. The purpose of my MBA was to help me be a more effective (less dangerous) mentor and to be able to teach generations of young scientists ‘business’ stuff that I wish someone had taught me.

Since (re)joining LBS back in 2007 I’ve had to bottle this passion for the simple reason that, gifted and driven though MBAs are, very few have much leading-edge technology to commercialise. Wonderfully successful at building ventures but not ones underpinned by novel intellectual property.

Until now. Last December, my colleague, Luisa Alemany suggested that I propose a new elective. This is normally the work of weeks but it took me three hours tops. In part, because I thought it too enigmatic to succeed so I didn’t try too hard. But mostly because the entire course was inside me already – the proposal was less essay and more outpouring.

To my utter disbelief, the bid was accepted and I was now on the hook. And as so often happens, as you re-read your original proposal you reel in horror at what you’ve promised.

So, what is Innovation to Market ‘I2M’?

Well, the premise is that early career researchers often have great technology but little idea of how to commercialise it. MBAs know how to commercialise but lack solid, tech-based ideas to run with. The trick is to bring them together. This ‘teambuilding’ is devilishly difficult. Mere networking events are too fleeting. Courses immerse you in common content but leave no time to socialise ideas or build trust and liking. What’s needed is a combination – electives meet LCAP – where you can learn and play together.

And that is I2M in a nutshell. I’m recruiting early career researchers to join the course, bringing a promising technology with them to ‘share’. One researcher to three MBAs. We’ll learn key principles of technology entrepreneurship together over five case/discussion-based sessions in the Autumn term, each session followed by guest speakers and lunch. By November MBA teams will have formed around the researchers and you have until March to produce a roadmap for commercial development – which you’ll present to a panel of tech entrepreneurs and investors in early March. All the while mentored.

An experiential elective

It’s an experiential elective – meaning that you’ll be applying the stuff you’ve learned in the first year to this second-year experience. It’ll be challenging; knowing how to devise a strategy is but half of it. Winning the confidence of the researchers is the make-or-break challenge. Master it and maybe you become part of the team after the elective. Alternatively, you move on, now better at managing and mentoring technical talent.

Learn more about the course and apply to join

Not many electives have their own website. This one does, written mostly for the external researchers who we’re intent on luring to the School but helpful, I hope, to LBS students who want to know more.

The course is open for applications. If you’re an LBS student, apply here by 26 July. If you are an early career researcher interested in applying find out more and apply here by 11 August.