The entrepreneurial skills of a team of early career bioscientists with ideas for food security have earned them top place in a national competition held at County Hall, London last night. The winners of the 2010 Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) competition are Laura Davies, Chris Cobb, Elizabeth Wright, Christal Fisher and Carmine Circelli from The University of Manchester.
Biotechnology YES is an annual business plan competition run by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI).
The team impressed a panel of investors with their hypothetical company Microbe Solutions Ltd when they presented their business idea for an alternative to conventional nitrogen fertilisers called Nitro-Pods® – a soil treatment consisting of enhanced naturally occurring nitrogen-fixing bacteria housed in a unique and environmentally safe pod. The judges were so impressed with their pitch that the team also take home the prize for best plant and microbial science business plan, sponsored by Syngenta.
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said “I would like to congratulate the winners on their success. The UK is world leading in bioscience research and the 21st century will be the age of bioscience driving the knowledge based bio-economy, already estimated to be worth €2 trillion per year in Europe. We need scientists to become equipped to exploit the results of their excellent work and so help the UK economy to compete and grow.
The participants in Biotechnology YES have had a brilliant opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills early in their careers. Translating knowledge into innovation is the challenge that we face, and developing these skills will put them in an excellent position to translate discoveries into social and economic benefits for the UK.
It is expected that the future security of our food supply will rely on the translation of high quality fundamental bioscience research into new products and technologies. The team from Manchester have demonstrated that they have the skills to do this in their future careers, should they choose to.”
Microbe Solutions Ltd made it through regional heats to compete against 10 other teams in the final, eventually going head to head with runners up Aptatek from the University of Bristol. Over 100 teams entered the 2010 competition, with each participant receiving mentoring and coaching in business planning; commercial and marketing strategies; raising and managing finance; and patenting and intellectual property.
Dr Laura Davies, Managing Director of Microbe Solutions said “We feel very privileged to have won – the standard was extremely high. We’ve enjoyed the experience immensely and it has opened our horizons to the kinds of careers that are available later.
“We’d like to thank the University, especially UMIP, for their help and support. We have learned a tremendous amount from working with them and throughout the competition.
“The team was put together for this experience and we’ll definitely stay close afterwards; who knows, perhaps there will be future business collaborations!”
As well as the title, the team take away £1000, tickets to the Bioindustry Association annual gala dinner and the chance to present the winning business plan at the Rice Business Plan Competition in Houstan, Texas, USA.
Professor Sir Tom Blundell, Chair of BBSRC, an early patron of the Scheme, and after dinner speaker at the Biotechnology YES 2010 final said “Congratulations to the winning team on a well deserved victory. I was involved in the early days of the Biotechnology YES competition in 1995 and the standard of competition has clearly risen year on year – the level at which teams are competing is now extraordinarily high. All the finalists gave impressive presentations and many would clearly be comfortable in the boardroom already. This is a great prospect for scientific entrepreneurship and I would like to wish all the competitors every success in their future careers.”
Biotechnology YES is annual business plan competition designed to raise awareness of commercialisation amongst bioscience postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers. It was developed and is delivered by a partnership between the University of Nottingham, Institute of Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Biotechnology YES has a strong history and this year marks its 15th anniversary.
Professor John Peberdy MBE, Emeritus Professor of Enterprise, UNIEI said “We are tremendously proud of this year’s winners as we are of all who have participated over the years. Before the launch of Biotechnology YES there was very little awareness of the need for entrepreneurial skills amongst scientists and this scheme has played no small part in changing that. Biotechnology YES has now trained almost 3000 early career researchers in business-relevant skills and many previous participants have put these skills into practice as their careers have developed. It gives me great pleasure to have been part of the Competition from the start.”
The value of the scheme has been recognised by Newcastle University in particular and it has now been integrated into their postgraduate continuing professional development programme. For the fifth year, a spin-off competition called Environment YES has been run by the Natural Environment Research Council and also receives sponsorship from Indigo. 3 teams competed last night in parallel with the Biotechnology YES competition for the Environment YES title, with Mara Mor Ltdfrom the UHI Millennium Institute being crowned the winners.
A recent independent review of the scheme shows that it gives early career researchers the edge in entrepreneurial skills and future career prospects. Having participated in the Biotechnology YES competition, early career scientists are well prepared to move into industry where their improved entrepreneurial skills are highly valued. There is some evidence to suggest that past participants perceive their earning potential as greater following the competition and the review indicates that the skills gained are exactly complementary to those acquired during a PhD.
Other winners in the Biotechnology YES competition were:
Best healthcare business plan sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline
Orexipro, Newcastle University
Best consideration of financial planning strategy sponsored by James Cowper LLP
Aeternus, Queen Mary, University of London
Best consideration of IP strategy sponsored by Potter Clarkson
Aptatek, University of Bristol
Best plant and microbial science business plan sponsored by Syngenta
Microbe Solutions, The University of Manchester
Best presenter sponsored by University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation
Melanie Wrigley, Tellus Technologies, The Geological Survey of Northern Ireland
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