Shechtman speaks to ISU community about mixing technology and business

Nobel Prize winner in chemistry Danny Shechtman gives a lecture on March 13, 2013, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union. Shechtman spoke about technological entrepreneurship and the importance of enabling scientists and engineers to create start-up companies. 

Elizabeth Polsdofer

Danny Shechtman, U.S. Department of Energy Ames Laboratory senior scientist and distinguished professor of materials science and engineering, encouraged member of the ISU community to consider a future a business.

His lecture, “Technological Entrepreneurship: A Key to World Peace and Prosperity,” took place on March 13, 2013, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union. Pat Miller, director of the Lectures Program, confirmed that 280 people were in attendance for Shechtman’s lecture.

“Technological entrepreneurship is the establish of a new technology venture,” Shechtman said. “That’s it. You have to establish it.”

Technological entrepreneurship is the building of science or technology-based businesses. Shechtman spends part of his time teaching at Technion, a technology institute in Shechtman’s home country of Israel, where he teaches a course on technological entrepreneurship. Attempts to build a similar class at Iowa State was not met with success.

The idea came to Shechtman when he realized there was a gap in translating knowledge about how to market technology in the business world. Shechtman said that Technion’s goals were to build students up to the level that any company would want hire them.

“I said, ‘What if I want to open my own technology business?’” Shechtman said. “The Technion did not teach me how to do that.”

Shechtman felt that his class has made an impact on technological entrepreneurship on Israel. Currently, Israel is the world leader in the number of startup businesses. The lecture emphasized fostering the “spirit of entrepreneurship” as a key component to ensuring success in new businesses.

“I know that around the world there are many programs in which children in high school are taught entrepreneurship,” Shechtman said. “The school is trying to introduce the spirit of entrepreneurship.”

The next step to successful technological entrepreneurship, Shechtman said, begins at the university level with land-grant universities such as Iowa State.

To inspire students at Technion speakers are chosen that are identifiable to young entrepreneurs.

“Even if you don’t have anything you can start something and you can succeed,” Shechtman said. “Students like stories, they learn from stories.”

However, Shechtman said a strong education and knowledge of technological entrepreneurship is not enough for students to be successful in the business world. Shechtman recommends government intervention as necessary as well.

“The government is obligated to supply, to provide basic education for all,” Shechtman said. “Governments have roles. Governments can support the growth of new businesses. I’m talking about state governments, maybe city governments, federal governments can help.”

Kristen Constant, chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, expressed gratitude that Shechtman was able to talk to students about technological entrepreneurship.

“Shechtman spends four months at Iowa State, but only one month of that is during the semester,” Constant said. “We thought it was important that the lecture on technological entrepreneurship be given when there are more students here.”