Unique opportunity for AU researchers with a passion for innovation

Aarhus University has launched a new initiative to forge stronger connections between research and innovation at the university. With the new AU Distinguished Senior Innovator position, selected researchers will soon be able to dedicate all their time to bringing together research and innovation.

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As part of its business initiative, the university is breaking new ground and creating a new position. Faculties will be asked to appoint researchers to the role of Distinguished Senior Innovator, so that they can create stronger ties between research and innovation at the university. The goal of the programme is to promote research-based innovation and entrepreneurship – and to boost the innovation culture at AU. The Aarhus University Board will finance the new positions with money from the university’s strategic funds.

“This initiative should be seen as an expression of AU intensifying its efforts within innovation and entrepreneurship. We’re making considerable progress in these areas, but there is still a great deal of untapped potential at the university,” says Birgitte Nauntofte, who continues:

“Researchers who are appointed to the new positions will be pioneers and ambassadors for academic innovation and entrepreneurship. An excellent example of a researcher who has shown a fervent desire and drive to innovate and succeeded in this ambition is Professor Kim Daasbjerg, who was last year’s recipient of the university’s Else Kai Sass Award – the first award of its kind at AU,” says chair of the board Birgitte Nauntofte.

When Kim Daasbjerg was nominated for the award, he was described as “the embodiment of an academic entrepreneur”, who during his 30-year career at the university has founded three research centres and two companies and helped promote knowledge sharing across the university and with the society around us. Lone Ryg Olsen, director of Enterprise of Enterprise and Innovation, notes that there is growing interest in innovation among research communities at AU:

“There are researchers across the entire university who are passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship. I encourage them to seize this new opportunity. In addition to applying their own research to new solutions, this new role will enable them to inspire others and to act as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship at the academic departments.”

Distinguished Senior Innovators at all faculties

The programme is designed to encourage more researchers to consider and test whether their research ideas have commercialisation potential and, by doing so, to increase the number of innovative solutions we offer to society.

Senior Innovators will have access to external expertise and consultancy services within innovation, entrepreneurship and business development. They will receive dedicated support to apply for external funding (such as proof of concept or innovation pool funding), and they will attend targeted workshops with other Distinguished Senior Innovators to ensure that they can benefit from each other’s expertise and exchange knowledge.

They will retain their academic title and departmental affiliation, and they will still have access to the same facilities so that they can continue their research activities.  Their work time will be divided equally between research and innovation activities. However, they will not be required to perform teaching duties or carry out any other tasks.

Work will now begin to find suitable candidates for the new positions through an open, internal recruitment process. To be considered for the role, researchers must be highly regarded and have experience commercialising their research. 

The plan is to appoint one Distinguished Senior Innovator per faculty and for the successful candidates to begin in their new role in January 2025. They will be appointed for a three-year period with the possibility to extend for a further two years.

Plan to expand the programme by appointing junior innovators

It is important that the new Distinguished Senior Innovators have the skills to involve early career researchers in innovation projects, because the programme will eventually come to include Distinguished Junior Innovators. 

Aarhus University has invested heavily in optimising the infrastructure for research-based innovation and entrepreneurship. For example, by establishing AU’s central innovation hub The Kitchen, where the new innovators will come to spend much of their time.

“The new Distinguished Senior Innovators will also be expected to help raise the bar for research-based innovation and entrepreneurship in The Kitchen, which is the university’s flagship for these activities,” says Birgitte Nauntofte, chair of the AU Board.

The Aarhus University Board has allocated DKK 30 million from the university’s strategic funds for a five-year period to launch and complete the project of appointing Distinguished Senior Innovators.

Read more about AU Distinguished Senior Innovators and what the role involves.