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Leaving the laboratory for business- who wants to be a CEO?

Leaving the laboratory for business- who wants to be a CEO?


Professor Alan Barrell raises some of the issues for those keen to spin out their research and head a new company.
Last Updated: 27-Aug-2010
Professor Alan Barrell FRSA., DBA will Chair EuroSciCon's 'How can I spin out my research and become a company?' meeting on March 14. In this article he raises some of the issues for those keen to spin out their research and head a new company.

LEAVING THE LABORATORY FOR BUSINESS -Who wants to be a Chief Executive?

Big decisions face all of us at many times in life. There can be no bigger decision for the academic, researcher or health professional, to leave the relative security of the laboratory bench and an environment of intellectual challenge of one kind, and pitch into the uncertain roller coaster world of business and commerce.
“So many questions” said one scientist leaving the laboratory to establish a company to exploit her intellectual property. Those questions include –
- Is my intellectual property valuable and protected?
- Have I set up a company properly – within the law?
- Do I have the finance to make my plans successful?
- If I don’t have the finance – where will it come from?
- In this regard – do I have a strong and clear Business Plan?
- Can I confidently present my Business Model to aggressive investors?
- Do I have a strong and reliable team to carry through the plan?
- Is my role, and my confidence in it – in the new company clear?
- How clear and confident I am that there is a market for what I plan to do?
- Have I looked closely and carefully at the competition?
- I am ready to take RISKS?
One of the suppositions in the title of this event – may be that if I “spin out my research and become a company” – that I will be THE BOSS – the Chief Executive. Is this normal ? Is it inevitable ? is it desirable ? Is it always possible ? That seems to me, as one who has spun out companies and been involved in directing and managing small ones and larger operations, a serious set of questions beneath the primary challenge of “starting a company”. These days, I am very pleased to see that numbers of very inspired entrepreneurs, with great ideas and technology are starting companies knowing that they will not be “THE BOSS” – because in many cases, the role of CEO might be best handled by someone of skill and experience who has done it before. The inventor might be the Chief technical Officer, or Chief Scientist – but always a very significant, usually the most significant, shareholder. Better to focus on what he or she can do best – which may well be more inventing and research – not trying to become an operations manager, which may never work.
The meeting being organised by EuroSciCon is particularly welcome, because it will enable these important questions to be asked and discussed with a very well qualified group of speakers on the platform and in the panel, to help those thinking of “spinning out” to come to better, and clearer decisions, and hopefully, better prepared actions. Indeed, for some, the answer to the question might be NOT to spin out, but to find a more effective way to exploit highly imaginative inventions. You’ll have to come along to get ANY answers !
I am looking forward to Chairing this important meeting, and as ever, learning myself from speakers and delegates. It is appropriate that the event is being held at the BioPark Hertfordshire which has been set up to support entrepreneurs who take the plunge !
Professor Alan Barrell FRSA., DBA

For more information on Professor Barrell please read his profile at

To book a place at this meeting please visit