Entrepreneurial scientists unleash their ingenuity
After being whittled down from 349 participants and 80 teams, Monday 5 December saw 14 finalists from Biotechnology YES and Environment YES – as well as the winners of Singapore YES, Epitome – descended on The Royal Society, to showcase their business ideas and get closer to the £7,500 prize fund.
After qualifying from regional heats to reach the finals, both teams pitched their hypothetical companies to a panel of expert judges, and survived tough questioning to take first place in the respective competitions.
Biotechnology YES and Environment YES are co-organised by the Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The University of Nottingham, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) with significant support from the Medical Research Council and industry.
The competitions allow early-career researchers from bioscience and environmental sciences to develop skills and learn about taking their research into the marketplace.
Biotechnology YES winners BeEco Biosciences Ltd -
Lina Dobnikar, Natasha Morgan, Michiel Thiecke and Rachael Huntly
Environment YES winners Cutico -
Matthew Wilson, Christopher Hepworth, Jessica Dunn and Christian Dutton
The winners of Biotechnology YES were BeEco Biosciences Ltd from the Babraham Institute, affiliated as PhD students to The University of Cambridge. They presented Varroanin; the only product that safely and effectively removes the Varroa mite which plagues honey bees. The remedy utilizes a novel chemoattractant compound to lure the parasites away from the host. Varroanin guarantees a reduction of colony collapse disorder and an increase in profits for bee keepers.
Marketing Director Lina Dobnikar said:
We were very pleased and honoured to win as the competition was really tough. Being part of Biotechnology YES has been an amazing experience as we have learned a whole range of new skills and met many inspiring people throughout the competition.
The winners of Environment YES were Cutico from the University of Sheffield. Their company plan introduced paper cups that can be fully recycled in the current paper waste stream. Plant based waterproofing for everyday problems.
Marketing Director Matt Wilson said:
Environment YES is an amazing opportunity for early career researchers to learn business skills that we wouldn’t necessarily get to learn as part of our research training. It’s been a huge challenge to learn about intellectual property, fundraising and business planning, but the support we’ve had from the University of Sheffield and NERC has been great.
The competitions involve early career researchers developing hypothetical but credible business plans for either biotechnology or environmental focussed companies. Team members act as directors in their company seeking equity investment from a panel of industry and science experts. Teams receive help and advice from expert mentors and guest speakers in areas including intellectual property, financial planning and marketing.
Many representatives from business and industry give up their time at no charge to act as speakers, mentors and judges for the competition. This year, there were over 200 people from 79 organisations involved in supporting the competition, who donated a total of 1321 hours of their time. Through significant commitment to the aims and objectives of the scheme, these organisations recognise the importance of Biotechnology YES and Environment YES in providing the basis for the continuing success of the biosciences and environmental sector in the UK.
Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Chief Executive, said:
BBSRC is delighted to support this exciting initiative aimed at equipping young researchers with the skills and confidence to get the most from their research. The Biotechnology YES and Environment YES competitions play an important role in inspiring the next generation of leading scientists and entrepreneurs.
The skills learned will help scientists translate research into economic growth. Laboratory research and innovative discoveries are changing lives for the better in the UK and the wider-world.
Congratulations to all our finalists and to the winners BeEco Biosciences Ltd and Cutico.
Professor Duncan Wingham, NERC Chief Executive, said:
This competition helps the participants to gain valuable skills and to learn to think in a more business-focused way about responsible management of the environment. Environment YES is invaluable for inspiring our researchers to become the next generation of leading scientists and entrepreneurs.
Professor Simon Mosey, Director of the Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The University of Nottingham, said:
The 21st YES final was the most exciting yet. I loved the diversity of ideas and how, despite it being a competition, the participants all supported each other throughout the day.
This was reinforced by The People’s Choice Award, where the audience voted overwhelmingly for a new method of controlling the dosage of importance drugs so patients no longer have to worry about it.
The HGI are proud to sponsor The People’s Choice Award and look forward to another year of innovation for YES, where we are hoping to take the competition to Africa to support sustainable entrepreneurship for better health, food and cleaner water. It has been a real privilege working with this year’s students as they have deployed cutting edge science to make the world a better place.
The following awards were also presented at the finals:
- Best healthcare business plan sponsored by GSK won by ISO Dose (University of Manchester)
- Best consideration of financial planning strategy sponsored by James Cowper Kreston won by Essence (Durham University)
- Best plant, microbial and environmental business plan sponsored by Syngenta won by Cutico (University of Sheffield)
- Best consideration of IP strategy sponsored by Potter Clarkson won by Symbioma (Queen Mary University of London)
- Best sustainable innovation sponsored by Unilever won by PhytoSystems (University of Warwick)
- People’s choice award sponsored by The Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship won by ISO Dose (University of Manchester)
- Best presenter award sponsored by The Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship won by Dr Fong Ming Koh, of Epitome (A*STAR) from the winning team of 2016 Singapore YES