CESP: Bringing Science and Business together!

 

This is the second edition of the Project Leadership Series. This series aims to explore the various activities under the wing of the CERN & Society Foundation, through the lens of the managers facilitating these projects. This time, we have with us, Silje Uhlen Maurset, the project manager of the CERN Entrepreneurship Student Programme - a budding entrepreneur, and one of the first participants of the programme herself!

Can you describe the programme in a few lines?

The CERN Entrepreneurship Student Programme is a five-week residency at CERN for students from across the globe. During the five weeks at CERN, the participants develop a plan on how to build and grow their new venture, with the assistance of technical experts at CERN as well as start-up mentors and experienced entrepreneurs.

What does the programme hope to achieve?

Our aim is to nurture innovative seeds that will become start-ups, hence increasing the positive impact of CERN outside of the high energy physics field. We want to assist the participants in the early stage of their new venture, by providing access to technical experts at CERN and support from experienced entrepreneurs, as well as providing a network of relevant start-up incubators and early-stage investors. We hope that this support will accelerate the initial phase of their start-ups, enabling them to have an even bigger impact. Finally, we want to educate the next generation of high-tech entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will hopefully solve grand global challenges in the future.

Silje
Silje Uhlen Maurset, Project Manager, CERN Entrepreneurship Student Programme

What’s new this year?

We want teams to continue their entrepreneurship journey after they leave CESP. For this reason, we opened up to team applications, along with individual applications. This way, participants will spend less time getting to know each other’s strengths and limits, and we can really help focus their start-up on the technical aspects related to high-tech entrepreneurship, where they can use CERN technologies to bring change to the world.

How does the programme work?

The programme mostly consists of hands-on work with the participants’ start-up ideas. During the first week of the programme, the participants get introduced to relevant technical experts and/or technologies at CERN, see how CERN can help improve the technical challenges of the start-up ideas. Throughout the programme, the participants start validating their ideas and get feedback on their business plan and pitches. In the final week of the programme, the participants pitch their start-up ideas, where the goal is to get ready to apply for start-up incubators and/or accelerators.

What’s the eligibility criteria for participating in the CERN Entrepreneurship Student Programme?

All participants must be enrolled at an educational establishment on bachelor or master level, preferably on the master level, and they must apply with an already existing idea for a start-up, but the start-up doesn’t need to be incorporated. Furthermore, the participants must have experience and/or strong interest in technology entrepreneurship, with the intention of starting up their own company. It is possible to apply either as a team (2-4 members) or as an individual, and the application must describe the start-up idea and how CERN technical expertise can help them in the process. The full eligibility criteria and terms & conditions will be published when the applications open on kt.cern/CESP.

What is the best feature of the programme?

I would say the best feature of the programme is the connections made during the programme. We gather highly qualified applicants from all over the world, all with different experiences, skills and network, and match them with highly skilled technical experts at CERN and experienced entrepreneurs. Being able to connect, learn from each other and support each other in such an international community is something you don’t find everywhere else.

It is also a great thing that we have so many young students coming to CERN, students who are really into solving the grand challenges of the environment, the climate, sustainable development that the world is facing right now. This programme is helping the application of science for a better world in the truest sense.

How is the project funded?

The programme is fully funded by external donors through the CERN & Society Foundation. This includes the allowance that the students get to cover for their cost of living. We also cover their cost of stay at the CERN hostels, so they don’t have to pay for staying in the area. This helps in our mission of keeping the programme inclusive, so that it is really accessible to students from all around the world, regardless of their economic situation. It also covers all the costs for the external speakers, and their travel so that the students can best benefit from their expertise as well.

Any innovative start-up ideas that have arisen as a result of the programme?

My personal favourite ideas from the programme have been those trying to solve grand global challenges, such as detecting reactivated wildfires or microplastics in wastewater. It is amazing to see the students validate the end-use with potential partners and articulate the value propositions of technologies developed at CERN.

In fact, the microplastics team is still active today. They started by exploring the different technologies at CERN. They were interested in the Structured Laser Beam technology that we have at CERN and were looking at the possible applications for it. And the team was personally interested in solving the global challenges related to the environment and the oceans. At CERN, they spoke to inventors and the knowledge transfer officers managing the technology, to understand how the technology worked and explored by how it could help solve wastewater contamination. Some of the students in that team even moved across cities to start working together along with their studies.

I think CERN as an intergovernmental organization has a responsibility when it comes to collaboration for solving global challenges, and therefore it is very inspiring to see the participants coming up with innovative solutions to such challenges.

Any advice for future applicants?

First of all: Apply! We love reading applications from passionate future entrepreneurs. As we base the selection on both the profile of the applicants and their start-up ideas, it is important to provide clear information about both yourself and your start-up idea. I would advise all applicants to describe the problem you are solving, why you are the right person (or team) to succeed with this start-up idea, and how CERN can help you regarding the technical challenges of your idea. The more specific, the better! It is also essential to be really clear on what your idea is (This is useful not just for an application to CESP, but also if you are applying to any start-up incubators and grants for funding in the future!) Finally, do not forget to check out all the requirements and ensure that you have attached all the documents. Follow the social media pages of the CERN & Society Foundation to keep informed when the time comes!

Silje
Silje Uhlen Maurset (as a participant at CESP 2018)

Tell us about you, and your role as the project manager.

I have a background in bionanotechnology and entrepreneurship, and I have always been interested in the implementation and commercialisation of promising research innovations to increase the positive impact on society, especially in areas such as climate, energy and health. After studying science, I realised it wasn’t enough to just do the research for me, I wanted to be able to bring the research out there to everyone, make it more accessible. The best way to do that is to learn how to do that. Hence, I studied business to understand customer needs, markets, product development and how to bring those products to market. During my studies, I started up a company aiming to use CERN technology to digitalise agriculture in my home country Norway. I was also one of the participants of the first CESP in 2018 and started working at CERN half a year later to organise the second edition of CESP and support potential entrepreneurs from CERN.

My role as a project manager for CESP is to recruit suitable candidates for the programme, match the participants with technical experts and mentors, coordinate the activities and day-to-day programme, and invite and coordinate external collaborators to the programme. It is a truly inspiring job with such great participants and collaborators! In the future, I hope to continue the intersection between science and business by starting my own company, solving the grand challenges out there (or at least contributing to solving them!)