Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Poland

Program 
Top 500 Innovators
Background 

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Poland, with funding from the European Union, worked with UC Berkeley Executive Education to create the Top 500 Innovators Program to help bridge the gap between academia and business in Poland and to help Poland’s top innovators become global market leaders.

Organizational Challenge 

Prior to beginning the program many Polish scientists found it challenging to showcase their extensive knowledge, commercializing it and making it more widely known. As innovation and discovery continued in Poland, it was necessary that the country’s top scientists improve their skills and knowledge for technology commercialization.

Program Overview 

UC Berkeley Executive Education designed the Top 500 Innovators program for Polish scientists to maximize new ways of thinking about innovation. Throughout the nine-week program, participants learned about the complete technology commercialization process, including technology transfer, opportunity recognition, building a business plan, building a venture team, securing capital and launching a new business. The Top 500 Innovators Program comprised four elements – classroom sessions, group project work, field trips and research fellowships. Each element employed active learning methods and stressed the development of skills such as teamwork, creativity, decisionmaking, conflict and problem solving and risk management, among many others.

Classroom Sessions

These sessions were dynamic and highly interactive. They included:

  • Dialogue on efficiency and transfer of best practices
  • Exercises on improving decision making with peer input
  • Identifying and developing new business opportunities by leveraging shared expertise
  • Practicing the cross-pollination of ideas
  • Exploring the realization of new business opportunities through strategic and collaborative execution
  • Lectures and workshops
  • Panel discussions (with executives or venture capitalists, for example)
  • Case study discussions
  • Group breakout sessions
  • Negotiation exercises
  • Participant presentations
Results 

Program alumni have:

  • Made changes to the Polish public procurement law, increasing the innovativeness of Polish science, entered into force in April 2014

  • Set up and are running 13 start-up and 4 spin-off companies

  • Cooperated with US Embassy and General Consulate in Poland

  • Organized scientific conferences and workshops in Poland in collaboration with scientists from UC Berkeley, for example workshops with Peter Fiske in Toruñ

  • Been featured in programs of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education (“Brokers of innovation,” “Incubator of innovativeness”) and National Centre for Research and Development (“Leader”), as well as numerous all-Poland competitions e.g. “Polish Invention 2013” and “Businesswomen of the Year 2013”

  • Organized and simultaneously broadcast 10 meetings with Polish entrepreneurs to 40 universities and technology transfers to promote the innovation and entrepreneurial culture in the academic community (initiative “Boomerang”)

  • Set up at least 3 Design Thinking Schools in Poland

  • Established numerous initiatives promoting the design thinking method in Poland, for example “Design Thinking Week” in 10 Polish cities in October 2014

  • Created, introduced and run innovative studies programs at Polish universities

Following the program, participants found that their skills were greatly enhanced. Over 75 percent felt that they were able to expand their professional networks, both inside and outside of Poland as a result of the Top 500 Program. Additionally, participants said they would be able to apply the content they learned in the program to their jobs in the next year. When reflecting on the program, Jolanta Lukasiewicz, associate professor at Ludwik Hirszfeld Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy in Wroclaw, Poland, said, “Above all, it has given me greater confidence. I will never have the business support services of a university, but through the program I have been given the support I need. I feel ready to change my local environment as never before.”

Polish Scientists and Employees of academic centers for technology transfer, working at Polish universities, research institutes and academic centers for technology transfer, chosen in an open competition
 
40 Participants in each program delegation
 
500 Polish Innovators over the course of five years, will have been selected to participate

"Poland is full of bright people, but they don’t know how to commercialize their discoveries. At UC Berkeley Executive Education, we are learning to take our scientific knowledge to market. It’s a contagious process and we are excited to take our experience here back to our homeland."

Lukasz Kutrzeba, Program participant and pharmaceutical technology broker at the Jagiellonian Center of Innovation LLC

"The Center for Executive Education is honored to have been chosen to host this high-energy, brilliant group of people. The program is very ambitious and brings the best of Berkeley and the Bay Area into the classroom."

Molly Nagler, Director of Strategic Alliances, UC Berkeley Center for Executive Education