Using Science to Start a Small Business

Using Science to Start a Small Business

For scientists and nurses, the idea of venturing into business might not be appealing due to various reasons. To start with, leaving a job that provides one with a steady income is not likely to be an attractive proposition for such people. Secondly, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), about 30% of new small businesses fail within the first two years of operation. As such, borrowing money to fund a startup could potentially cause an entrepreneur serious financial problems. In fact, the Coleman Report published in 2009 shows that 11.9% of small businesses default on loan payments. Nevertheless, it is possible for a scientist or nurse to start and run a successful company.

fitbit one
photo credit: Ray Bouknight

From Scientist to Entrepreneur

In general, scientists spend most of their time in the confines of laboratories doing lab work that entails, among other things, testing different substances and carrying out scientific experiments. Due to the nature of their work, scientists tend to develop unique and innovative ways of solving existing problems over time. Still, even with such abilities, most scientists are often reluctant to commercialize their ideas or venture into business by themselves. A case in point is a group of scientists from Yale University that participated in an entrepreneurship program run by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The aforementioned group was working on an electrochemical technology for desalinating brine. By the end of the NSF’s entrepreneurship program, this group of scientists had met executives from the energy industry who were willing to pay 60 times their initial price projections. Out of 21 teams of scientists that participated in this program, 19 had commercially viable ideas. This shows that scientists are sitting on a goldmine of knowledge and research material that could generate substantial profits.

To ensure that scientists turn their lab ideas and projects into viable products, the New York Academy of Sciences has started a program called “From Scientist to Entrepreneur” to help members become market focused innovators. The good news is experts from the startup and small business community have offered to help scientists learn how to commercialize their innovations.

The aim of these efforts is to upend the traditional model where researchers and scientists remain in the lab and license their discoveries to businesses. The National Science Foundation has already provided $11 million to start “innovation nodes” for scientists in San Francisco, New York city, and Washington DC.

Turning Nurses into Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship opportunities extend far beyond the hallowed grounds of research facilities. Professionals working in the healthcare industry such as nurses could also become entrepreneurs. The government’s push to provide universal healthcare provides budding healthcare entrepreneurs with a great opportunity to start businesses.

A report published in the Washington Business Journal states that entrepreneurs should be ready to disrupt traditional models of delivering healthcare to patients. According to this report, entrepreneurial healthcare professionals could develop new tools to make chronic illness management easier, tools to direct patients to the right caregivers, end-of-life care tools, safety devices, as well as personal wellness devices. Products that measure a person’s vitals such as heart rate and calories burned are quite common (for example, Fitbit).

In fact, a study carried out by StartUp Health found that 421 businesses focusing on the healthcare industry alone raised more than $3 billion from angel investors and venture capitalists starting from 2010 to 2012. Statistics published in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing show that entrepreneurial effort in nursing varies from one country to another. In the UK, as much as 18% of nurses run businesses related to healthcare. In comparison, only 0.18% of nurses have taken the same step.

All in all, the future of the scientist turned entrepreneur is likely to be bright. Business opportunities abound ranging from developing HIPAA compliant software and hardware for the healthcare industry to developing corrosion inhibitors for the automobile and oil industries. VCs and angel investors have realized that they could fund scientists and nurses to turn their breakthroughs into products that solve pressing consumer needs.

About the Author: William Stevens is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to technology. In this article, he explains how science knowledge begins businesses and aims to encourage further study with an ADU Bachelors Degree in Radiology.

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