Research or business? Choose both!
Anssi Klapuri is living proof that it is possible to successfully combine academic research with a business career. He divides his time between the Department of Signal Processing at TUT and Ovelin Ltd, where he is one of the shareholders and works as lead algorithm developer.
"TUT gave me the opportunity to combine my lifelong passion for research and technology with my enthusiasm to pursue a business career", says Klapuri.
Klapuri conducts research and teaches students at the Department of Signal Processing, where he occupies a tenure-track position at the level of Associate Professor. The tenure track system is the key mechanism for recruiting academic researchers and is commonly used in universities worldwide. It offers the recruited researchers a clearly defined career path towards a full professorship. The system has also been adopted by TUT.
Dreams of entrepreneurship
Klapuri has worked at the Department of Signal Processing for roughly a decade. He wrote his dissertation on automatic music transcription in 2004. He was the first researcher at the Department to specialize in music signals and gradually established a research group in the field.
"Over the years, I repeatedly asked around to see if anyone was interested in setting up a company. In Finland, doctoral students own the rights to their research. We had a pool of talent readily available and the odds of running a successful spin-off company were in our favour."
One of the students finally seized the opportunity and established Wavesum Ltd together with Klapuri. The idea was to develop, among others, commercial software for notating music and controlling lighting effects.
Full potential unleashed
A couple of years later, Ovelin Ltd was launched by TUT’s students Christoph Thür and Mikko Kaipainen. They had a recipe for success and contacted Wavesum when they needed technological expertise for taking their ideas further.
Ovelin introduced its first edutainment musical game WildChords in 2011. It quickly attracted widespread attention and was chosen as the Best European Learning Game.
"WildChords is based on advanced signal processing technologies that we developed by applying the research results I’ve produced at TUT over the past ten years", Klapuri describes the creation of WildChords.
Ovelin’s latest online guitar learning game GuitarBots was released in November 2012. The company has set its sights high. Supported by the U.S-based venture capital firm True Ventures, Ovelin aims to become the world’s leading developer of interactive games that help people learn to play a musical instrument while enjoying every minute of it.
Creating new jobs is most important
Anssi Klapuri couldn’t be happier with his life.
"It’s extremely rewarding to take part in the development of commercial products and yet be actively involved in academic research. From a business point of view, it’s important to carry out research and not just read publications authored by others. It’s a way to stay one step ahead of our competitors."
According to Klapuri, the academic community in Finland is rapidly adopting more favourable attitudes towards business.
"In addition to purely academic merits, universities are already using other yardsticks to evaluate the effectiveness of research. I think one of the greatest feelings is knowing that you’ve contributed to the creation of new jobs", he concludes.