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Career paths

Young researchers prefer academic over marketing careers

Daniel BuenoThe interviews conducted by business analyst Nathalia Dayrell Andrade at the University of Campinas (Unicamp) for her master’s thesis entitled A universidade empreendedora no Brasil: uma análise das expectativas de carreira de jovens pesquisadores (The Entrepreneurial University in Brazil: An Analysis of Career Expectations of Young Researchers) suggest that, based on a limited sample, most PhD candidates and post-doctoral students are not interested in starting their own businesses, but would rather follow a traditional academic career path as a professor or researcher. In studies for her master’s thesis carried out at the Science and Technology Policy Department of the Geosciences Institute at the university and defended in 2014, Andrade investigated how academic entrepreneurship, considered a possible career alternative for students who recently earned their PhD, influences the training and professional choices of young researchers.

For the case study, five research groups were selected in the fields of biology, physics, information technology (two groups) and biotechnology. The five group coordinators and 12 doctoral candidates and post-doctoral students working on collaborative projects were interviewed. They were chosen based on their history of collaboration with industry or with the formation of technology-based businesses.

The project was based on an earlier study by her advisor, Professor André Luiz Sica de Campos, who has been working on relationships between universities and the industrial sector for over 15 years, since he earned his PhD at the University of Sussex in England. “At Sussex they found that researchers who were involved in collaborative projects expanded their career prospects,” Andrade notes. “Many of them were able to have a hybrid career, working on company projects at the university or creating their own firms.”

Andrade points out that in Europe and in the United States, the labor market for academics is saturated, and so young researchers look to entrepreneurship as an alternative. “In Brazil, since higher education is currently expanding, recent PhDs are more interested in pursuing a research career.” Andrade also points out that the weak demand by companies for research is contributing to this choice. She mentions as example an interview with a startup that had developed a technology that caught the interest of a multinational in the aerospace sector in the United States, but was ignored in Brazil.