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Stefano Germano (MPLS Enterprise & Innovation Fellow 2020-2021) is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Computer Science. His research focuses on how Artificial Intelligence and Semantic Technologies can improve knowledge management in non-conventional environments. He has been involved in various international research projects with academic partners as well as small and big companies, and he has worked as a consultant and scientific advisor for spin-off and small businesses in the information technology field.

Tell us a little about yourself, and your path to entrepreneurship

I think I’ve always been interested in innovation, in learning something new. I did my Bachelors and Masters degrees and my PhD in Italy, before moving to Oxford to become a research associate. Alongside my academic studies, I always enjoyed taking part in events and learning activities. Even when I was living in a small city in Italy, I would seek out communities and co-working spaces, and would try to immerse myself in experiences where I could meet like-minded people and make connections. I also took internships that took me to different places around Europe, which I really enjoyed. 

Coming to Oxford in 2019, I was keen to connect with the innovation scene. At the start, this wasn’t as easy as I’d expected; there are lots of things happening in Oxford, but due to the decentralised nature of the University, you don’t always get to hear about them. And as a research associate, you don’t have a college affiliation, so you can end up feeling a bit disconnected at times. But I met new people at some of the department-led events I attended, and we shared information on other innovation events and activities we’d found, so gradually I found my way in. I was especially interested in cross-departmental challenges and getting to meet and collaborate with people from beyond my own specialty. Meeting people from different departments is really valuable. You can find some common patterns and challenges, share ideas, and find ways to look at them from a different perspective. 

What do you think are the benefits to academic researchers of exploring innovation and entrepreneurship activities?

When you’re in the middle of your academic career, it can be easy to dismiss these things as irrelevant to your journey. But the fact is, whatever background you come from and whatever field you’re currently in, it is really worth exploring. Engaging with entrepreneurship can be a way of building a useful bridge between academia and industry, and that is so valuable. In the future, I think there will be many more programmes focused on making this kind of connection. 

Do you think your interest in innovation is driven by the wish to solve a particular problem or challenge? Or is it more about connecting and communing with other innovators?

I think for me it’s more about the connections - the more connected you are, the more possibilities arise, and I find that very inspiring and exciting. The MPLS Fellowship has a big focus on giving back, and lending support to the next generation of innovators in academia, and this idea is very important to me. I am motivated by helping people to connect, and enabling them to build skills that will help them, both within and beyond academia. Problem solving. Finding common ground. Showing people the possibilities that innovation can unlock, whatever they want to do next. These are all things that motivate me, and I strongly believe that you should always try to do things that you like, because that way you’ll always give your best, and get a better outcome.