The SKIES (SKilled, Innovative and Entrepreneurial Scientists) project is an EU-funded programme involving astronomy and entrepreneurship/industry organisations from Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and South Africa. The project team organised a workshop on entrepreneurship for PhD students at the university of Heidelberg, Germany in January 2022.
These partners collaborate to develop training for astronomy PhD candidates on open science, innovation and entrepreneurship to prepare them for career opportunities inside academia and beyond. After several months of preparation, the project started its implementation in Germany, at the International Max Planck Research School for Astronomy and Cosmic Physics at the University of Heidelberg (IMPRS-HD).
IMPRS-HD together with the Centre for Entrepreneurship at Heidelberg University organized a workshop Jan. 11-13. 2022. Invited were astronomy MSc students, PhD students and early-career postdocs.
The workshop was to train young astronomy researchers about careers outside academia (mainly). Workshop topics included awareness of own, transferable skills, job searching and entrepreneurship.
Overall 15 students participated actively. Due to the pandemic situation, about half of them participated online, they others joined the meetings in the workshop rooms at the Marsilius Kolleg at Heidelberg University.
The workshop was lead by MPIA researchers, Christian Eistrup, and Riccardo Franceschi, and the expert on local entrepreneur opportunities from Heidelberg University (“hei_Innovation”), Bartosz Kadjas, who were all three trained as workshop trainers by the EU SKIES program in August 2021.
There were three aims of the local workshop:
- Creating a safe space in which transferring careers away from academia is not considered a
failure or last resort, but rather a positive, conscious choice.
- Helping participants to become concretely aware of their own (transferable) skills.
- Engaging participants with exercises including introspective exercises (IKIGAI model) and
professional networking and exploration exercises (e.g. on LinkedIn).
Career outside academia
The workshop focused on meeting the participants where they were (career-wise); helping them recognise their own strengths, skills, talents and career desires; introducing a set of career opportunities that was broader than typically highlighted (teaching and data science); and then guiding the participants to pursue new opportunities.
Another element was two days of immersion into entrepreneurial concepts, skills and exercises. This was new material to many participants, but they enjoyed the experience. Seven former IMPRS/MPIA researchers, who have since transferred careers outside academia, give talks and answered questions about their experiences. The workshop culminated in a visit of one of the start-up incubators on the new campus of Heidelberg University.
Read more about the SKIES project here.