The Jesuits believed "give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man." UK telecommunications giant BT believes that if given a researcher early enough it can produce an entrepreneur – or a BT advocate, at least.
Brightstar, a project at BT's research park in Ipswich, seeks to convert unused or unmarketed intellectual property (IP) into companies that it can incubate and spin off. Researchers are encouraged to drop in with ideas, but as founder Harry Berry has discovered, it is a struggle to convince them that there is more to life than publishing white papers.
Now, he has taken to asking those employees with a PhD qualification what will be ‘hot' in five years' time. The survey included a whole series of questions about floating off companies, corporate incubators and whether the respondents felt they could start their own companies – all in an apparent effort to plant a seed of entrepreneurship.
Unfortunately for Berry, the results of the survey suggest the participants were got at by BT's marketing men. Presumably confined to darkened cells with only their BT in-house magazines for reading material, these poor souls' responses reflected those of people whose world views have been skewed.
Strictly ‘on message', they believe the hottest technologies today are voice-over-IP, wireless local area networks, XML and digital subscriber line technologies (xDSL), while in five years, the mobile Internet, the smart-connected home and online security will hold sway. And naturally, fixed-line telecommunications is most definitely not going away.
Finally, the factors most vital for developing technologies? More than half believe "fast access to markets through BT's lines of business" are what will make or break a start-up.