27 April 2023

On Leadership Day, in a car park somewhere between Zagreb and a sailing excursion on the Adriatic Sea, Jörgen Ahlberg received his Entrepreneurial Teacher of the Year award by video link.

A man on a screen in front of an audience
Audience in Linköping, prize winner in Croatia Magnus Johansson

“I run two Linköping companies with offices in Zagreb. It’s expanding, we have set up another office, and I spend a lot of time there. Now we managed to fit in a few days sailing, as well”, says a sun-tanned Jörgen Ahlberg, when he has returned to the slushy snow of Linköping.

He is an associate professor and docent at the Department of Electrical Engineering (ISY), researching computer vision, while concurrently having built up and being engaged in half a dozen companies, including Visage Technologies, Termisk Systemteknik and Glana Sensors. He ended up in Zagreb thanks to a meeting with a doctoral student from the city.
“We were PhD students together, me in Linköping and him in Geneva. Visage Technologies is a spin-off from our work on facial recognition and animation. Our customers are companies that make software for things like virtual eyewear, make-up and teeth.

“I see entrepreneurship as a form of creation, you make something of the research, become a part of society and of people's lives. Our companies stop fires, save people's health, economy and environment. For example, we have written software via the Arriver/Qualcomm company that is in the latest Mercedes model. We’ve helped them with that.”

The citation states that you have the ability to see things nobody else sees. What do you see?
“I never became the super scientist that I hoped I would be. Having a foot in both the academic and the commercial world has become something of my niche. Those who are only in one world don’t see what is going on in the other.”

How do you find time for everything?
"Well, I don't really. I always think that next year I’ll take it a little more easy. But life keeps throwing exciting things at me. And you get lots of requests for help when you're doing this.

At LiU, he still plays a small part in the teaching and supervision of doctoral students. He will shortly travel to Oslo to meet up with two new doctoral students who he has up to now only met on Teams. And the new office in Zagreb also takes a large part of Jörgen Ahlberg's time.

The prize for Entrepreneurial Teacher of the Year is SEK 20,000 and is to be used for skills development. What will you do with the money?
“I have a Master of Science in Engineering and am a Doctor of Technology. But I have no training in how to think as an entrepreneur. Last autumn, I took part in a board training course, which was useful. I’d like to take a course like this, or a mentor program, to get some coaching. I thought I’d take the opportunity now that I’ve received this money.

The jury's motivation

This year's prize-winner demonstrates excellent entrepreneurial ability by, in a wide range of fields of application, seeing things nobody else can see, analysing them point by point, and creating successful companies from the results.
He is not driven by being in the spotlight, but rather often works unseen in the background and has thus, more than many people are aware of, strongly promoted entrepreneurial culture at LiU. He is described by colleagues as: “Incredibly helpful!”

He also possesses one of the most important qualities for an entrepreneur, namely the ability to surround himself with the right people to fulfil his vision. He has the ability to build goal-oriented teams that all work in the same direction. He also knows how to deliver visible results, as demonstrated by the strong companies he has built: Visage Technologies, Termisk Systemteknik, and the up-and-coming Glana Sensors.

Translation: Simon Phillips

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