Expert internships as a door opener and bridge builder between science and business

Lisa Grum
Building a bridge in just two months? This is living reality for young researchers and companies participating in the Expert Internship Initiative of the LBG Career Center!

The Ludwig Boltzmann Society - Socially relevant research

The Ludwig Boltzmann Society (LBG) ranks among the oldest, largest and most important research and supporting organisations in Austria. Together with academic and application partners, LBG operates about 20 Ludwig Boltzmann Institutes (LBI) and research groups with a focus on health sciences as well as the humanities, social and cultural sciences (ranging from the LBI of Human Rights to the LBI for Rare and Undiagnosed Diseases). The LBG takes up the challenges of today, establishes interdisciplinary institutes for a duration of seven years, and also develops and tests new forms of cooperation between science, business, the public sector and society.

The LBG Career Center - Intersectoral career development

Against this backdrop, the LBG Open Innovation in Science Center and the LBG Career Center were set up in the year 2016, cutting across the research institutes. The objective of the LBG Career Center is to support young researchers in their professional development within and outside of the realm of science. This is designed to promote mobility and the transfer of knowledge among the various sectors and society. International studies (e.g. the Nature Graduate Survey 2017) show that about 70 percent of pre- and post-docs strive for a career in science, but almost just as many have to or want to leave the scientific system in the long term. Those of us here at the LBG Career Center are developing measures to support these highly qualified employees - experts and (potential) executives - in formulating and implementing their individual career targets and pointing alternative career paths for them in a timely manner. One of these measures is the so-called Expert Internships programme.

“The special thing about the LBG Career Center or, as one would say in scientific circles, our USP, is that we not only assist people’s career development in the field of science, but also in particular provide support outside the realm of science. This runs like a continuous thread through all our activities (“opening minds and careers instead of reproducing stereotypes and desperation”). Verena Aichholzer, Director LBG Career Center (see Aichholzer 2018).

Aichholzer, Verena (2018): Wissenschaft als Karrieresprungbrett? Unterstützung bei der Karriereentwicklung von
NachwuchswissenschafterInnen in und außerhalb der Wissenschaft. In: Personal in Hochschule und Wissenschaft
entwickeln. DUZ, 3 / 2018, S. 47 - 59.
Woolston, Chris (2017): Nature Graduate Survey: A love-hurt relationship. Nature, Vol 550, 26 October 2017,
p 549 - 552.

Expert Internships

The Expert Internships initiative - connecting science, business and other sectors of the LBG Career Center enables young researchers and companies to get to know each other for a period of two months without any obligation and to build up networks and future partnerships.

Pre- and post-docs of the Ludwig Boltzmann Society and other research organisations and universities take part in a two-month Expert Internship in a host organisation outside of the scientific community which they have chosen. This can range from a regional startup and public organisation to a multinational company. The object is to promote intersectoral career develop and knowledge transfer. The Expert Internship is financed by the LBG Career Center and systematically supported by coaching and mentoring.

The decision to pursue a career path in a new sector, unknown company or even in another country should be prepared in advance. Right from the onset there is frequently a lack of know-how and know-who, experience about corporate culture, potential fields of activity and approaches to work outside of the scientific community. The Expert Internships programme gives participants an insight into “that other world” with respect to work, career and future-oriented issues. In turn, this serves as the basis for the young researchers to make more pinpointed decisions.

The initiative was launched in the year 2018. Since then Expert Internships have been successfully concluded at the following host organisations, to name a few: Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bildungshaus St. Martin, CNSystems, Horizont3000, Novartis, Rechnunghof (Court of Audit), Roche Diagnostics, Steiermärkische Landesregierung (Provincial Government of Styria) and Takeda. Several candidates and companies have even decided in favour of a long-term cooperation in the form of permanent employment after the Expert Internship has come to an end.

Bridging two worlds

Prejudices often exist towards various sectors, for example between the “academic community” and other sectors. Frequently (young) researchers are confronted with the prevailing prejudice that they are not suited for a job in the business world - due to the fact that they are “overqualified” in theory and “underqualified” in practice. However, if one takes a closer look, it turns out that the expertise and experience of many individuals is much more extensive than their curriculum vitae indicates. Pre- and post-docs boast a multifaceted set of skills, from analytic thinking and project management to teamwork in various working groups. The Expert Internships provide a platform to overcome prejudices along with a stimulating change of perspective and an exchange of knowledge beneficial to both sides.

We look forward to further interested companies and young researchers, who we can bring together and support thanks to this initiative!

Lisa Grum works as a freelance author and project & marketing manager. She studied sociology and political science and worked as a trainer in adult education for 7 years.

In addition to regular journalistic reports and portraits, she is currently publishing her first book in the Bibliothek der Provinz publishing house.

Contact: lisa.grum@lbg.ac.at  / lisamaria.grum@gmail.com

Lisa Grum
Projekt & Marketing Manager | Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft

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