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14.01.2015 |

An entrepreneur joined the MoViE team

In the Entrepreneur in Residence model, an entrepreneur provides a research community with commercial expertise and assistance in product development, while preparing an entrepreneurial venture for the product to be commercialised.

An entrepreneur joined the MoViE team

How can a commercial approach be combined with research and research-based innovations so that the results are not only academic publications, but also increased cash flow? One solution is the Entrepreneur in Residence experiment currently ongoing at the Institute of Behavioural Sciences, which involves an entrepreneur joining a research community.

The model is already widely used on campuses in the US. The idea is to bring together researchers and commercial expertise. Working as a member of a research community provides the entrepreneur with greater insight into the features and strengths of the product under development. Moreover, the entrepreneur can support the researchers by offering relevant commercial perspectives to promote their research.

Entrepreneur Joni AlWindi joined the MoViE team at the end of 2014. He is keen to introduce the academic community to the start-up environment in which a product is tested and developed with consumers right from the outset.

“My focus is on honing the customer and user experience. I am responsible for testing the service and offering my view on what users want and what works in practice. This is a phase that has been completely missing from many academic projects. It is surprising that they have previously got even this far.”

Become an entrepreneur with no initial risk

As soon as he graduated as a Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration, AlWindi knew that he wanted to work in the promotion of education. Having sought funding for three years for his own research project in Columbia following the global financial crisis of 2008, AlWindi gave up on his idea of working as a researcher. He realised that he could achieve his goals better in the capacity of an entrepreneur in the education sector.

Launching his own ICT and education company in Finland provided AlWindi with access to interesting networks and events, for example, through the Finpro-led Future Learning Finland. A meeting with Solveig Roschier of HIS marked a watershed. It led to the MoViE cooperation that now enables AlWindi to use his commercial skills in the world of pedagogy, digital story-telling and top-level research.

The project aiming at the commercialisation of MoViE will receive TUTL (“New knowledge and business from research ideas”) research funding from the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation until June 2015, thus providing AlWindi with the opportunity to prepare the commercial foundation with no immediate economic risk.

A three-month pilot to be launched in the spring will involve testing MoViE in a teaching environment with a view to commercialisation. The concept has raised a great deal of interest because it offers a new way to provide student-centred teaching.

 “MoViE is based on the world of children and aims to bring school topics there – not the other way round. The unrestricted learning environment is not tied to a classroom, and students learn by doing,” AlWindi explains.

In future, the product’s competitors will be found from among applications available in the AppStore because game companies are fast entering the education sector. However, they usually lack the pedagogical expertise of the academic world. The integration of such expertise into the sector offers promising prospects.

“A commercial perspective is welcome”

AlWindi believes that without the Entrepreneur in Residence model or an equivalent approach many promising projects would be scrapped as soon as research funding runs out, wasting a great deal of potential and ideas.

Cooperation between researchers and an entrepreneur requires mutual respect and finding a common language. At the Institute of Behavioural Sciences, the parties have cooperated successfully, and everyone feels that they have gained from the collaboration.

“Joni has introduced a new entrepreneurial perspective to our research community. As educational scientists, we have known little about selling and marketing a product or expertise in a commercial sense,” says researcher Kirsi Viitanen.

AlWindi and the researchers have cooperated closely, for example, in preparing marketing material for MoViE. In addition to other marketing activities, high-quality material is useful in finding the user groups needed for the research.

“We have learnt to analyse the strengths of the service and highlight them in marketing. We have also obtained useful tips for talking about features that are still under development without making the product sound deficient or reducing the customer’s interest,” researcher Anne Kuokkanen adds.

Find out more about the MoViE service: http://cicero-movie.edu.helsinki.fi.

Researchers