It’s better for them to be involved with businesses, hired for their expertise, subject to the put up or shut up of the free market, than to pontificate their non-realistic abstractions within the halls of government, totally unaccountable for their advice.
The Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle teamed up with the Finnish Union of University Professors in August to determine how many professors in Finland are serving on corporate boards. The survey was sent to the 2,420 members of the union from August 15 to 17 this year, generating 677 replies for a 28 percent response rate.
The majority of professors responding said they did not participate in business activities. About 80 percent indicated that they did not serve on a company’s board of directors, while the remaining 20 percent said they did. Respondents were asked not to include any companies they may run themselves for lecturing or publication purposes.
Of the 20 percent that said they served on a board, almost 70 percent said their board work was limited to one company. Another 20 percent said they sat on two boards, just over 7 percent were active in three and fewer than two percent were on more than five.
The majority of the companies that academicians were involved with were in the education and research sectors. The second most popular sector among respondents were businesses fell under the ’other’ heading, followed by industrial products and services and health care in third position.
Expertise leads to most appointments
Over half of those professors that served on a board did so in companies that can be considered small and medium-sized enterprises. One-fifth was active in start-ups, and another quarter said the firm was an ‘other’ type. Only three percent sat on the boards of limited liability companies.
By far the biggest reason professors in Finland were asked to sit on corporate boards was their know-how and expertise in the business area or product in question. This accounted for 47 percent of all cases. Less than a quarter said it was because of the contacts they had.
A surprising proportion, 36 percent of the responding professors, owned shares in the company on whose board they served. The same amount reported working for the company as an external consultant. About one in every five academic board members revealed that the company’s business idea was founded in their own research or innovations.