Alumni: Cosmin Laslau – Evaluating energy ideas

When Cosmin Laslau was at school, nanotechnology was an up and coming area of science receiving large amounts of publicity. Being tremendously excited by the opportunities, as well as being young and impressionable, he started down the nanotechnology research path. His career has been a mix of study, research and commercialisation, skills he now uses as a Research Analyst at Lux Research. The company, based in Boston, acts as a technology scout for large companies looking to make connections with small companies—for investment or research partnerships—and help speed new technologies to market. Laslau’s role is to identify and evaluate energy storage technologies. “I’m very excited about what energy storage can do in, say, revolutionising transportation. But there has been a lot of wasted money where investment from companies, from governments, from tax payers, have gone to the wrong businesses that have then gone bankrupt and millions of dollars have gone down the drain. It’s really important to be able to, if not pick winners, have a better process in place for identifying who […] is really worth backing.” His time at Lux has shown him that the research from The MacDiarmid Institute has tremendous potential for commercialisation. “The area that gets the most interest from companies out there is advanced materials. It’s an area that always has something new happening. Right now, for example, 3D printing is really getting a lot of interest, research and investment. The MacDiarmid Institute is well positioned in that it covers an area of special interest, and even though the exact areas may change, the overall umbrella of advanced materials and nanotechnology will continue to be around and continue to be of interest.” After gaining a BSc in polymer chemistry at the University of Toronto, Laslau saw New Zealand as a “fantastic opportunity to combine work and fun” for his graduate studies, gaining a MSc and a PhD from the University of Auckland. He was one of the team to start up MESA—The MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Association—as he felt it was important to get students and emerging researchers excited about nanotechnology and its potential by making them feel like part of a community. He credits his attraction to the commercialisation side of science to his time at The MacDiarmid Institute and MESA. “One of the great things about The MacDiarmid Institute is getting PhD and Masters students involved with commercialisation efforts. You’ve done your PhD, working on this one topic for three or four years, then you think about how you would commercialise that. I always enjoyed combining science with talking about science and thinking about other aspects of how it gets out there in the world and really makes an impact and what is that process like. I always had that shift in mind. Where MacDiarmid helped was to give me a bit of a test drive, as I was finishing my PhD, so that before I jumped in I could do so quite confidently knowing I would really enjoy it.”