A million in funding awarded to PhD candidate and entrepreneur
Through the company Mycroft, PhD candidate Christian Braathen makes it easier to create good work schedules. He is now set to receive NOK 1 million from the Research Council of Norway.
Christian Braathen will receive NOK 1 million through the Research Council of Norway's STUD-ENT scheme. The Research Council wants to strengthen student entrepreneurship and a culture of innovation at Norwegian educational institutions. This year, the Research Council of Norway received 45 applications, of which 20 have been granted funding.
Braathen, who is a PhD candidate at the Department of Business and Management Science, says that the last days before the application was to be submitted were particularly hectic.
‘There were 21 different people involved in the work on the application, including twelve different mentors. Making it all work was quite the task – it didn’t make it any easier that I had just undergone surgery and had limited sight.
Braathen was given useful assistance and participated in the work orally, and during the final phase, he worked on writing the application.
‘It was very important that we managed to submit the application. A grant of NOK 1 million means a lot to the company,’ he says.
Uses robots to create work schedules
‘We make work schedules that colleagues actually want. We ask the employees how they want to work, prior to letting our AI solution find the work schedule they will be the most satisfied with – given regulations and contractual needs,’ says Braathen.
The idea came to him when he was studying for a bachelor’s degree at NHH, and while also working at a shift-based workplace.
‘Every other month, I saw that my manager spent two working days preparing rotas that took regulations, contractual needs and the employees' wishes into consideration. And the staff were just as unhappy every time. This was not because the manager did a bad job, but because such rotas are better created by a robot than by a human being,’ says Braathen.
That same year, Braathen was taking a course in decision-making in business economics at NHH. He then got the idea of building a robot that could solve the logistics problems his manager was struggling with.
‘The innovation environment at NHH is blooming’
NHH provides office spaces and academic mentors for Braathen and his company. They also receive advice in connection with project funding and are introduced to relevant organisations with which NHH cooperates.
Braathen mentions three people who have been particularly important to him and the company: Vice Rector Therese Sverdrup, Professor Bram Timmermans and Professor Mario Guajardo.
‘The innovation environment at NHH is really blooming, and I believe Sverdrup and Timmermans to be two key persons in this process. Guajardo has also supported me as a mentor, and now as a supervisor, ever since I started on my bachelor's degree,’ he says.
Research fellow and entrepreneur ‘Fits like hand in glove’
In addition to starting his own company, Braathen is a PhD candidate at the Department of Business and Management Science.
‘Fits like a hand in glove’. ‘By being an entrepreneur, I have avoided the ivory tower syndrome as a PhD candidate because I have become better at discovering what our society needs,’ he says.
Braathen emphasises that he is working on projects other than Mycroft as a PhD candidate at NHH, but that the competence gives him a competitive advantage.
‘As a PhD candidate, I receive the academic competence I need to solve some of the most complex issues in my field. This competence helps us to create solutions that give us a competitive advantage,’ says Braathen.
‘I can therefore recommend future researchers to think about being an entrepreneur in addition to their studies, and vice versa,’ he adds.