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Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme gives scientists the edge

3 August 2010

A review commissioned by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) shows that the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) - now in its 15th year - gives early career researchers the edge in entrepreneurial skills and future career prospects.

The full report is available here: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/biotechyesreview

The Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) is an annual business plan competition designed to raise awareness of commercialisation amongst bioscience postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers. Biotechnology YES 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) with the Medical Research Council providing significant financial support.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "The UK leads the world in many aspects of the biosciences and it's crucial we can translate discoveries into benefits for people's wellbeing and innovations which equip UK businesses to compete in the global marketplace. That's why I welcome schemes like Biotechnology YES. It offers important entrepreneurial skills to our next generation of talented scientists and technicians so they can exploit the results of their research and help the economy to grow."

The report, an independent review carried out on behalf of BBSRC, shows that having participated in the Biotechnology YES competition early career scientists are well prepared to move into industry where their improved entrepreneurial skills are highly valuable. 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.

Participants said:

  • "I feel Biotechnology YES has significantly improved my career prospects, and wholeheartedly encourage other PhD students to take part in YES."
  • "YES gave me the opportunity to demonstrate and develop skills that one rarely (if ever) gets the chance to develop during the progression of a 'typical' research PhD programme."
  • "Participating and being one of the winning team members changed my life: moreover, YES inspired me to start my own business."
  • "The workshop really opened my eyes to the world of commercialisation of sciences and has had a huge impact on my career since."
  • "YES gave me self-confidence, knowledge of the wide number of career options available and experience of real team working."

Participants have gone on to a particularly wide range of activities and almost half of those who have now finished their postgraduate study are working in industry, compared with less than ten percent of non-participants who took part in the review.

Dr Malcolm Skingle, Director, External Science & Technology at GSK said "GSK has been involved with Biotechnology YES for many years now and it is absolutely clear to us that the scheme produces some of the most talented business-minded scientists in the UK. Just having a PhD isn't always enough to do well in science-based business but the Biotechnology YES participants come out of the scheme with the full set of skills - it's no surprise that they are in demand and doing well in their careers."

Biotechnology YES has attracted over 30 sponsors over the years from a range of local, national and international public and private organisations including research councils, charities, pharmaceutical industry, agri-food industry and financial and legal companies.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills said "We've put approaching 3000 students from over 100 institutions through Biotechnology YES over the past 15 years. With the support of colleagues working in the private sector, we've been able to give them a really thorough introduction to the necessary marketing, financial and intellectual property skills to enable them to realise the economic potential of their science. We are absolutely delighted that participants have found their way into industry, started their own companies and are proving extremely attractive to employers."

Biotechnology YES has grown year on year and this year around 100 teams have entered. 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 several years now, a spin-off competition has been running, this is called Environment YES and was established by the Natural Environment Research Council.

Dr Simon Mosey, Director of Entrepreneurship Programmes at the University of Nottingham Institute of Enterprise and Innovation, said: "The University of Nottingham is proud to be associated with Biotechnology YES. We are delighted that the review has endorsed the importance of the entrepreneurial skills Biotechnology YES provides. The review demonstrates the Scheme can be effectively delivered to a significant proportion of postgraduate researchers to help them realise their innovative potential."

Professor Barry Hirst, Newcastle University Dean of Postgraduate Studies said "We actually couldn't think of a better way to equip our postgraduate scientists with top entrepreneurial skills. The access to experts from industry and very high quality training the participants receive made this an obvious addition to our researcher development programme. The success of quite a number of Newcastle bioscience graduates is in no small part down to their participation in Biotechnology YES."

The 2010 competition has received 104 team entries (plus 22 teams entering Environment YES) and heats will be held in the autumn, followed by final rounds and head to head competition in December to decide the winners. For more information see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/biotechyes

ENDS

About UNIEI

The University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) is a world class centre committed to the development of entrepreneurial skills and the commercial innovation of new technologies and ideas. Our purpose is to engage staff and students in the acquisition of enterprise skills so that they are better able to realize the opportunities generated in a rapidly developing entrepreneurial culture. UNIEI aims to be at the forefront of international thinking and best practice in engaging universities and businesses in the process of wealth creation.

For more information see: www.nottingham.ac.uk/enterprise

About BBSRC

BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £470M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

  • The Babraham Institute
  • Institute for Animal Health
  • Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Aberystwyth University)
  • Institute of Food Research
  • John Innes Centre
  • The Genome Analysis Centre
  • The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
  • Rothamsted Research

The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.