The North West regional workshop of the 2013 Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES), run jointly by BBSRC and The University of Nottingham Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, took place in Manchester last week.
Biotechnology YES, now in its 18th year, is a three day workshop aimed at raising awareness of the commercialisation of bioscience ideas among postgraduate students and postdoctoral scientists. Participating teams have the chance to present an oral business plan for an imaginary biotechnology start-up company to a panel adopting the role of venture capitalists.
This year, for the first time, the Royal Society of Chemistry provided financial support for several of the participating teams. "We are delighted to be able to support young chemists to learn more about entrepreneurship," said Aurora Antemir, Industry Programme Manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Sixteen teams took part in the Manchester workshop, from eight universities. This was one of five regional competitions; the winners will go head-to-head at the final in London in December.
The atmosphere was highly charged, and many of the teams worked on their presentations until the early hours of the morning. Joe Segal from The University of Manchester summed up the feeling of many teams, saying, "It's very intense, but it's a hugely enjoyable experience and we're learning a lot."
The competition was an eye-opener for the participants, many of whom had little or no previous entrepreneurial experience. "I think I now have a much greater appreciation of the business side of science," said Jon Green from the University of Exeter. "It's opened my eyes to all the different roles involved and skills required to start up even a small company."
Two panels of judges each selected a winning team to go forward to the London final. Nutec Ltd, a team from the University of Liverpool, won a place in the final with their idea of a formula that limits the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream to prevent weight gain.
"We're so pleased," said Kelly Ward from Nutec. "It's been a lot of hard work and a lot of late nights, and we've taken in so much information, so we couldn't be happier."
Biotherma Ltd, from The University of Manchester, also secured a place in the final with their idea of genetically modified bacteria that produce heat from organic waste. "We're very excited to be going to London." said Rebecca Sullivan from Biotherma. "It's been an amazing experience here in Manchester, the mentors have been an immense help, and we're looking forward to our feedback from the judges."
Rod Benson, Chief Operations Officer at Imagen Biotech, who presented a case history of his company to participants and himself took part in Biotechnology YES in 1999 said, "I think the really valuable contribution the competition makes is in terms of changing people's thinking about their career choices."