When I came to WUR to work, I didn’t have much experience of WUR as an academic entity but I had spent some time at various other universities. One of the big differences between technical universities and other universities that struck me was the strong focus on inventing new things and the way students were encouraged to quickly come up with solutions and market them in a real or imaginary start-up. Not only were students trained in developing an entrepreneurial spirit, many of the professors I had met in Delft and Eindhoven had their own companies, start-ups or at the very least patents registered in their name.
What could be more inspiring than a teacher talking about their own experience with a business?Guido Camps, postdoc at Human Nutrition
Things were different in Wageningen. My first experience with entrepreneurial thinking was the instruction I got to report all my sidelines and only undertake something once I had explicit permission to do so from my manager. I also saw hardly any Wageningen professors who had their own companies or start-ups.
I think we should actually be asking our staff to undertake more such side activities. In my opinion, entrepreneurial thinking and starting an enterprise are important experiences that not only let you earn revenue from your research but can also enrich university education. Not all the students we teach want to become academics; some want to be entrepreneurs. What could be more inspiring than a teacher who can talk about their own experience of setting up a business, whether it was a success or —perhaps actually more educational — a failure?
My proposal is for the new recognition and appreciation to be based not just on publications, PhDs and other academic factors but also on whether someone has started a company or been able to license a patent. Entrepreneurial students deserve entrepreneurial teachers, and research will only end up at the heart of society if people take it there.
Guido Camps (37) is a vet and a postdoc at the Human Nutrition department. He enjoys baking, beekeeping and unusual animals.