March 17, 2023
Academic Entrepreneurs in Residence program celebrates 1 year of success
Research findings are far too often sequestered away. Impactful evidence is published in a journal and then filed away for future systematic reviews and citation. Shifting research out of the mountains of academia and along the innovation pathway toward an ocean of opportunity can be an intimidating and unknown journey for academics.
The Academic Entrepreneurs in Residence (AEiR) program supports this critical step forward by providing early-stage mentorship and support. AEiR mentors are university scholars with entrepreneurial experience and a deep understanding of research, technology, and business.
“As AEiR mentors, we are able to connect the languages of research and academia with those of business and community,” says Dr. Adam Pidlisecky, PhD, associate professor, Department of Geoscience, Faculty of Science.
“We can help researchers focus on the potential societal significance of their ideas and discoveries.”
The program launched in 2022 as part of the Innovation@UCalgary ecosystem with Pidlisecky, and researchers Dr. Jagos Radovic, PhD, Department of Geoscience, and Dr. Paula Berton, PhD, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Schulich School of Engineering. The mentors provided personalized support to 10 research teams from across the university who were engaged in other programs within the innovation ecosystem.
Jordan Smith, MSc’22, was part of the first AEiR cohort to receive one-on-one mentorship support to move his research-to-impact. Smith co-founded the startup Quantized Technologies Inc. (QTI) prior to beginning his master’s degree in physics. His graduate research would inform an approach to quantum cryptography that secures digital information from hackers.
"Having a business and entrepreneurial background, myself, I was skeptical about whether this group of academics would be able to add much industry-relevant value in building a startup,” says Smith. “But the guidance and perspective that I have received have been immensely useful in developing our business.”
Smith’s company QTI is now working to provide quantum technologies to existing communication and cybersecurity methods. “I am extremely glad that I chose to work with AEiR,” says Smith. “In many ways, the program helped to springboard our company to where we are today. It has certainly been a 'value-added' experience."
In addition to the success of Smith’s innovation journey, AEiR also mentored university research startups Sequence2Script, Bee Energy, and Fluidome, with five of the 2022 teams being accepted into the Creative Destruction Lab.
AEiR has expanded their expertise with the addition of three more mentors: Dr. Belinda Heyne, PhD, professor, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Dr. Victoria Hodgkinson, PhD, director, digital health, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, and Dr. Lian Willetts, PhD, assistant professor (teaching), Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy in the Cumming School of Medicine.
Now with their second cohort underway, AEiR is supporting 17 teams from four faculties with in-person networking opportunities for teams to connect as a group and share ideas and experiences.
“The additional expertise of our new mentors will allow us to be able to support more researchers from across campus,” says Pidlisecky. “We look forward to continuing to guide teams on the innovation path that is right for them to make an impact.”
UCalgary is a leading destination for researchers to take action and move ideas toward implementation and community impact. The Innovation@UCalgary ecosystem supports these efforts through a culture of entrepreneurial thinking and determination.