Excellence Initiative - Research University
ul. Gagarina 7, 87-100 Toruń
tel.: +48 56 611 31 31
e-mail: idub@umk.pl

Interview with Justyna Łaskowska

Interview with Ms. Justyna Łaskowska, MA, director of the Center for Academic Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer and chair of Team No. 4.

Adam Szumski: Director, please tell us what the team you lead within IDUB does? What was it set up to do?

Justyna Łaskowska: Team No. 4, of which I am the chairwoman, was established within the framework of the “Excellence Initiative – Research University” program to implement one of the goals that our university has set for itself within the IDUB program. It concerns innovation and cooperation with the socio-economic environment. Within the framework of this overall goal, we can distinguish specific goals, these include:

– to increase innovation and cooperation with the socio-economic environment;

– to initiate and support contacts between the university and business entities;

– fully utilizing the university’s potential for stimulating innovation and implementation work in accordance with international standards;

– introduction of TRIZ training;

– promoting entrepreneurship among students and doctoral students through Startup Weekends and Hackathons;

– expanding the role of the Academic Business Incubator in radiating the importance of innovation at the university and introducing and coordinating the university’s policy of cooperation with the business environment.

Starting with the last mentioned goal is that on January 1, 2021, we transformed the Academic Business Incubator into the Center for Academic Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer (CPATT). It performs the roles of an academic business incubator and technology transfer center.

AS: What does this mean in practice?

JL: At CPATT, we help employees, PhD students and UMK students who have a business idea, but don’t know where to start or whether their idea has a chance of success. We create business plans, identify difficulties and opportunities for their own business. We make sure that the support we give is tailored to individual needs.

We take care of the development of entrepreneurial competence of employees, doctoral students and students – we diagnose the needs of both the market and the university, and in response to them we prepare an offer that stimulates the development of innovation at UMK.

We also support the transfer of knowledge and scientific achievements and their promotion. In this regard, we identify innovative solutions emerging at UMK, provide comprehensive protection of intellectual property rights, valuation, analysis of the market potential of ongoing projects and research results, as well as recommendations for their protection. We take an active part in the process of establishing cooperation with business entities.

We cooperate with Technology Transfer Centers at universities in Poland, Science and Technology Parks, university special purpose vehicles and other external entities in the field of innovative activities and joint initiatives, including building relationships between representatives of business and scientific teams of the University.

In general – we are trying to improve the transfer of research results from UMK to business. The main goal guiding these activities is to improve the quality of life of societies in the modern world.

AS: Please outline what activities have been conducted so far?

JL: CPATT conducts a number of activities related to the broad promotion of entrepreneurship and technology transfer at UMK.

We carry out projects aimed at the UMK academic community, as well as projects that integrate science with the socio-economic environment, e.g. grants to improve readiness to implement research results, we subsidize the cost of patent protection, we provide training. We also take an active part in the implementation of international projects: YUFE, YUFERING, INN4YUFE and DIOSI.

Our current profile is based on the key activities of the unit, which are technology transfer, academic entrepreneurship and intellectual property protection, as well as the activities carried out in the mentioned areas within the framework of projects.

We offer comprehensive support for the marketization of scientific research results, knowledge and technology. We assist in the sale, licensing or establishment of a company. Our Innovation Brokers provide professional care at every stage of these processes.

We are an organizer, co-organizer or actively participate in events promoting academic entrepreneurship and technology transfer, viz: TIME Economic Forum, WELCONOMY, Academic Entrepreneurship Forum, UMK Innovator competition, Company of the Future.

AS: What are the benefits of the IDUB program?

JL: The development of academic entrepreneurship and technology transfer make it possible to multiply the benefits reaped by the scientist and the university and other partners of the socio-economic environment. Not only do they build the position of the university in the national and international arena, but most importantly – they support the development of an informed society.

Activities related to academic entrepreneurship affect the development of programs of education, promotion, entrepreneurial attitudes among students, doctoral students and academics. They support the construction of institutions and support programs for university professionals interested in starting a business on the basis of their knowledge and ongoing research programs.

They enable the management of intellectual property at universities. They also contribute to increasing the social utility of the university itself.

All CPATT activities aim to increase the university’s role in the socio-economic environment. They also open the way for entrepreneurs to benefit from the products and services offered by the university. In this way, the academic community gains an audience for its research, its knowledge and its inventions. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, gain access to innovative – based on unique knowledge – products and services. This constitutes a kind of symbiosis between science and business.

AS: Please tell us about the Center’s successes.

JL: First and foremost, the increasing recognition of CPATT UMK as measured by the cases referred to us by the academic community.

We are a unit that, on the one hand, sensitizes the business community to the achievements of science, and on the other – shows scientists that they can conduct activities from which they make real profits and at the same time give something of value to society. Therefore, an important achievement is the consolidation of cooperation with business environment institutions, such as the Bydgoszcz Industrial Cluster, Toruń Regional Development Agency S.A. and the Lukasiewicz Researcher Network. An important issue is the first patent sales. UMK’s Center for Academic Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer has partnered with the University of Arizona to jointly patent the research results of a team made up of Torun and American academics. Thanks to the support of the Center’s staff, a joint application was submitted on June 18, 2021, and is currently awaiting completion of patent proceedings. An important piece of information for UMK scientists is that the result of the research work is of interest to a business entity expressing a desire to purchase or obtain a license to the research results. CPATT has been authorized to negotiate on behalf of the scientists in financial matters, both with the business entity and the University of Arizona.

AS: What is in the plans for the coming months?

We are about to start recruiting for the UMK Entrepreneurship Ambassadors project – students who will be the liaison between the faculty and CPATT. This is because we are committed to building relationships with students for building an optimal support program. Students will be able to participate in specialized training and workshops, as well as major economic events in the region. They will also receive support from CPATT UMK staff. Their tasks will be to participate in organizing events related to entrepreneurship and to collect students’ needs in this area. In this context, a new CPATT program aimed at building a start-up culture at the University under the still working name of Copernicus Startup Labs, promoting entrepreneurship, is extremely important. The initiative will focus on introducing the idea of running an innovative business under the guidance and support of CPATT professionals and collaborators, as well as meetings and knowledge sharing by people whose startups have been successful.

This year, we will launch the INNSTART Club for doctoral and undergraduate students. It will provide a platform for the exchange of knowledge and experience among individual members, and will enable the expansion of knowledge and skills by offering closed-door training courses and meetings with authorities in the field of innovation, as well as build members’ professional portfolios, including, for example, participation in a product and service design program. Its members will have a real opportunity to improve their professional skills in entrepreneurship and innovation.

Certainly, 2022 will be focused on students and PhD students, supporting their needs.

AS: Thank you for the interview!