June 4, 2014

Spotting talent(s)

Science Industry Talk 2014 discusses common task of science and industry to discover and develop talents • Words of welcome by Science Minister Mitterlehner and IV President Kapsch • Lively debate by experts reveals demand for a new mindset

It was Falk Strascheg, doyen of venture capital in Germany, who possibly offered the most surprising insight at the Science Industry Talk 2014 on Tuesday evening: “Perfect is boring”, he stated, asking for a more supportive attitude towards failure and thus stimulating talents to test themselves in so far unfamiliar fields.

The President of IST Austria, Thomas Henzinger, outlined the main subject to the 200 participants at the beginning of the forth Science Industry Talk, jointly organized by the Federation of Austrian Industries (IV) and IST Austria: “IST Austria owes its existence to a large extent to the determination of the Austrian industry. We share a common task: How to spot talents and talent. Identifying talent requires a new mindset ready to encourage the unusual, the out-of-the-box-thinkers, the unknown. In short: it requires the conviction that good is not good enough – and that we can do better.”

Henzinger referred to the training of young scientists at the institute: “Together with research, the graduate school is an integral part of IST Austria. As only a fraction of our students will stay in science many will go into industry. If you want to compare IST Austria to a factory manufacturing goods, our institute produces highly skilled and trained scientists with an enormous range of problem-solving skills which can be applied in any field of advanced technology. One measure with which we prepare our students is the mandatory entrepreneurial lecture which we have inserted into the curriculum. With this we want to ensure that our graduates leave IST Austria with a solid understanding of the demands of business and industry.”

The President of the Federation of Austrian Industries, Georg Kapsch, emphasized the necessity to spot talent as early as possible and then continue to support them along the educational trajectory. Kapsch especially referred to the decreasing numbers of students in Europa choosing technical studies compared to the US and Asia. A problem demanding swift action by spotting and motivating the according talent.

The Federal Minister for Science, Research and Economy, Reinhold Mitterlehner, referred to the successful development of R&D in Austria in the past decade. In order to continue this growth path it will be necessary to identify and involve more private funding for research institutes like IST Austria which the minister praised as example of cooperation between industry and science.

The panel discussion, hosted by Oliver Lehmann, focused on the initial question.

Edward Astle, former Pro Rector Enterprise Imperial College London, asserted, that “spotting talent is not a one way process: organizations can help bring out individuals' talent and it is essential that they do. But it is equally important that individuals must want to strive to stretch themselves and their talent, and to learn how to show this off to the world in the right way.”

Helga Rübsamen-Schaeff,  CEO of the German biopharmaceutical company AiCuris, compared her experience first working for a global multinational company like Bayer and then in her own, initially small and now highly successful start-up: “Trust in the people is a central quality. Trust can set free enormous potential.”

Falk Strascheg, now acting as Business Angel with his EXTOREL GmbH and founder of two Strascheg Centers for Entrepreneurship at German universities described his talent as “fast detection and recognition of opportunities”. In this context he pleaded: “Don’t try to be perfect”. Anyhow, should a person finally prove untalented for a certain task the person should be replaced.

Marie Ringler,  Director Austria & Central and Eastern Europe of Ashoka, supported Strascheg: “Sometime it is necessary to be blunt and suggest a change in position.” Ringler gave examples how Ashoka as network detected and supported talents capable of solving societal problems with entrepreneurial spirit, summarizing necessary virtues for talents as “unemployable, uncommon, unstoppable and unbounded”.

Friedrich Prinz, Finmeccanica Professor in the School of Engineering, Stanford University, pledged to view the task of spotting talent from the point of the talent: “How can a university position itself to attract talent?” Supporting his co-panelists Prinz stressed: “Being wrong is important. And as a mentor: be forgiving.”

The managing director of IST Austria, Georg Schneider, concluded the debate: “At IST Austria we try to raise the chances to engage with talented people by applying a rigorous selection process at all levels.” Referring to the panelists Schneider said: “We should not put up with the initial display of talent but continue to search for further talents in a person and at the same time secure an environment in which the display of talent is recognized at an early level.”

“One attempt to help talents develop to their full capacity is our technology park in the immediate vicinity. We recently founded the management company which allows us to cultivate an atmosphere in which industry and science can seamlessly interact with each other offering industry an unprecedented access to talent and technology.”

After the official part the interaction between science and industry was continued at a reception in the foyer of the Raiffeisen Lecture Hall.

For photos see our image gallery.