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Mohammad Ali Amini Nanology Labs
Mohammad Ali Amini
CEO & President - Nanology Labs
Part of the Spotlight on Driving Innovation Through Intrapreneurship

Intrapreneurship’s Impact on Scientific Innovation

Takeaways

  1. There is a risk to intrapreneurship within an organization whereby you must allocate time and resources before you can make a product or profit on a new, innovative technology.
  2. Intrapreneurs have a better understanding of industry demands and a passion to overcome industry challenges, which will ultimately help companies to overcome future barriers.
  3. Companies need to allocate time, resources, budgets and training to develop a culture of intrapreneurship and drive innovation to commercialization.

Action

The Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade should listen to intrapreneurs on the challenges they are facing and the resources that they need. By adapting the government system, Canada can support a stronger culture of intrapreneurship.


What is intrapreneurship to you, and what skills or mindsets does it relate to?

When we talk about intrapreneurship, it means the employees within an organization that are motivated to follow their novel idea and bring it into reality. Intrapreneurship also refers to a tech world system with integrated resources provided to employees who are eager to follow their innovative idea within the system, and create a framework around innovation to bring it into reality.


What is the value of intrapreneurship to an organization and what are the potential benefits or risks?

There are definitely risks associating with adapting and bringing a novel innovation into a business, but there is also a lot of value. In risks for companies, bringing a new innovation or a culture of intrapreneurship into a company will mean allocating time and resources before you are making a profit from the innovative technology. But at the same time, to have a sustainable business and keep your company in the market, you have to adapt with novel technologies. That is where an intrapreneur gives you the upper hand in surviving among your competition.

“There are definitely risks associating with adapting and bringing a novel innovation into a business, but there is also a lot of value.”


How does intrapreneurship impact innovation and do you encourage it within your team?

My team definitely supports intrapreneurship. Intrapreneurs and employees within a company know the problems and challenges within the specific industry, and they are facing these challenges with their business. They have a better understanding of industry demands, so if they have the motivation and passion for their novel idea to overcome those challenges, this will serve the company to overcome future barriers.

“Intrapreneurs and employees within a company know the problems and challenges within the specific industry, and they are facing these challenges with their business.”

In my team, we write down the problems we are facing and believe we will face in the future. We look at similar stories of companies that are successful or that fail, and then set aside time to determine the solutions if we were to face the same challenges. That creates the mindset within our team to always consider this intrapreneurship path and solutions to future challenges. At the same time, we are prepared for when those challenges come. For example, there are rainy days when you run businesses, so we need an umbrella for those days.


What impact does intrapreneurship have on an organization’s ability to commercialize?

Innovation alone is not enough—and individual intrapreneur cannot bring an innovation into reality and into the marketplace. You need to have a system from the top to the bottom, from the executives to the employees. That connection can bring resources to intrapreneurs and create a framework to create a profit or product out of your innovation. Technically, you first need the innovation and a practical business plan around it, as well as to provide training to your employees. If you are talking about an academic institution, there has been an emergence of campus accelerators and incubators that provide training to students and recent graduates to develop a very practical commercialization plan around their idea. Companies, on the other hand, need to allocate time, resources, budgets and training to develop a culture and mindset that will drive innovation to commercialization.


What steps can be taken by academic institutions to encourage and instil a culture of intrapreneurship?

The first step is to create a mindset among the students in academic institutions and then provide them with training. Professors at academic institutions can encourage students and graduates to pursue ideas that solve a problem within an industry and fill a niche in the market. Academic institutions then have to provide training to entrepreneurs, and there are a lot of incubators and accelerators that have amazing training programs to students, and even better to post-doctoral fellows. Post-doctoral fellows are the sweet spot because they have scientific background, management skills and have developed their own novel ideas. If they have proper business and entrepreneurship training, they can bring their idea into reality.

In my case, I was in the exact same situation. While completing my PhD in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto, we had an amazing technology working. I heard about the incubators on campus that could help with your idea and help you make a commercialization and business plan to develop your technology. That motivated me to speak with Dr. Shirley Wu, my supervisor, and she agreed that entrepreneurship was an interesting path to pursue. We founded Nanology Labs together and expanded the team to create a practical commercialization plan around the technology.


How can Canada improve intrapreneurship?

This will require systematic support from the federal government, because it brings risks, and you need to spend money in order to train intrapreneurs and to bring innovations into reality. Programs like Mitacs are the best example of this systematic support. Mitacs and similar internship and fellowship programs work with academic institutions and help create the shelter for intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs within an organization to pursue their ideas and bring them to commercialization.


Who would you pitch in 30 seconds about improving Canada’s culture of intrapreneurship and what would you tell them?

I would pitch to the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, as they are the best people to hear the story of what intrapreneurs are looking for and the challenges they are facing. I have been in touch with them and they are very open to hearing these stories of recent graduates or intrapreneurs within organizations that are overcoming challenges. They should further adapt the system to create an atmosphere and environment within Canada to better serve an intrapreneurship culture.

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Mohammad Ali Amini Nanology Labs
Mohammad Ali Amini
CEO & President - Nanology Labs

Bio: Mohammad Ali Amini is the CEO and President of Nanology Labs and a former Entrepreneurship Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto. Mohammad holds a PhD in pharmaceutical oncology from the University of Toronto.

 

Organization Profile: Nanology Labs is a biotechnology and pharmacology startup from the University of Toronto. The lab has designed and manufactured MRI agents for brain tumour detection using MRI imaging.