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The new KTH Innovation Award will go to brave innovators

Collage with portrait of Daniel Ek, KTH logotype on brick wall, portrait of Mathias Uhlén
The KTH Innovation Award goes to entrepreneurs and innovators that have dared to think big and take on difficult challenges. Creativity, grit and courage are the words that typify this new award, that has been enabled by donations from Spotify founder Ek and KTH Professor Uhlén. Photo: Spotify/KTH/Alessandro Bellini.
Published Apr 07, 2021

Together with Spotify founder Daniel Ek and KTH Professor Mathias Uhlén, KTH has established the new KTH Innovation Award. Each year, SEK 500,000 will be presented to entrepreneurs and innovators from KTH who have contributed to making society better.

The new KTH Innovation Award has been enabled by donations from Spotify founder Daniel Ek and KTH Professor Mathias Uhlén. They now share their favourite advice on how to succeed with future innovators and entrepreneurs.

Portrait of Daniel Ek
Daniel Ek, Spotify

Daniel Ek, what do you view as the main key to success within entrepreneurship?
“A willingness to take risks. And the ability to see and take advantage of opportunities even in times of crisis. History shows that the best ideas, innovations and solutions are often born during times of extraordinary challenges.
“For me personally as an entrepreneur, I am an optimist by nature. And in my experience, the key to success is also to stay focused on thinking big, of tackling problems in a creative way and to never give up.”

What advice can you offer people who are worried about new demands on the job market, and are maybe hesitating about investing in their own ideas?
“While I think Europe has incredible potential when it comes to talent and ambition, we need more entrepreneurs here who are daring enough to raise the bar, who can act as an inspiration to others.
“If we are genuinely going to be able to influence future development as much as I think we are capable of doing, we must have the courage to invest in our own ideas. And take onboard the risks that go with embracing the unknown.
“I often see people give up and sell their business too soon, so I would encourage entrepreneurs to believe in what they are building and dare to take their company the whole way.”

What does courage mean to you?
“For me, courage is about grit. To keep going, despite the uncertainty, the self-doubt and questioning from others. When we hear stories of successful companies, we tend to believe everything has gone smoothly. But the truth is that many fantastic companies have had at least three near death experiences, and this is genuinely true for Spotify. To get through these times by continuing to keep your focus on the long-term was crucial in creating Spotify’s corporate culture.”

Portrait of Mathias Uhlén
Mathias Uhlén, KTH

KTH Professor and entrepreneur Mathias Uhlén, who together with Ek has enabled the KTH Innovation Award, is also a world-leading researcher in biotechnology and the head of the Human Protein Atlas  consortium.

What made you to decide to get involved in this Award?
“I am passionate about pure research, and the process where you go from idea to societal benefit. Via the 25 companies I have been involved in, I have learnt that there is far more to entrepreneurship than having a cool idea. Providing products and solutions that are sought by society is even more important.
“You need both creativity and grit to succeed. It is a fascinating journey, but also incredibly demanding in terms of time and energy. The new Innovation Award aims to promote individuals within the KTH sphere that have struggled and succeeded. We want to show how important KTH is for the Sweden of the future.”

Who would you wish to nominate for the KTH Innovation Award?

•Anyone can nominate someone for the Innovation Award, or even themself.
•The monetary prize of 500,000 Swedish crowns will be awarded to “one or several individuals with a connection to research and education at KTH whose innovation and entrepreneurial feats have contributed to the development of new knowledge and positive impact in society.
•The inaugural recipient will be announced in June 2021 and the award will be presented in September. The deadline for nominations  is 15 April.
 www.kth.se/innovationaward

What do you see as the most important key to your own success as a researcher and entrepreneur?
“I think it is important to be curious, and to clearly communicate your vision, both within the research group and to grant providers. One decisive factor is to build up confidence by always delivering what you have promised.”

What does courage mean for you in this context?
“Courage is about daring to break new ground and to challenge yourself and your employees to do something that has never been done before. As a researcher, it means not simply to dig deeper where you are standing, but to explore new ground.
“As an entrepreneur, courage means you have to be able to stay on a roller-coaster ride without giving up. In all my business enterprises, the companies have faced uphill struggles or regular crises – these kinds of situations have to be resolved with courage and creativity combined.”

Katarina Ahlfort
Photo: Spotify, KTH, Alessandro Bellini

Daniel Ek: My key to realising grand visions

“For me, the key to realising ideas and projects successfully is being able to understand what you are trying to do from all angles and perspectives. This includes carefully analysing what you need for it to be profitable, and whether in the long-term, the project is worth investing time and resources in.

“It is also important to be aware of what you do not know. For me, it is ultimately about creating a process where I can learn as much as possible about whatever it happens to be – for example a specific issue, or a new sector. I learn by reading and talking to other people. A great deal.

“I have also learnt to give myself the breathing space to enjoy the learning process, without being too fixated on results.”

This is KTH Innovation Award

•The Award, worth SEK 500,000, will be presented to ‘one or several individuals with links to research or education at KTH whose innovation and entrepreneurial efforts have contributed to the development of new knowledge and benefits to society’.
•The award recipient will be announced annually, starting in 2021.
•Anyone who so wishes, can nominate a candidate by the 15 April 2021 deadline. You can also nominate yourself.
•The award recipient will be decided by an award committee made up of KTH and external representatives.
•KTH has an extensive track record of promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. Each year, hundreds of students, researchers and employees receive support from KTH Innovation  to further develop their ideas.

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Last changed: Apr 07, 2021