September 30, 2016, by The Ingenuity Lab

YES to Competing for Change

Part of the Haydn Green Institute’s educational programme, the Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) aims to raise awareness of the commercialisation of ideas amongst researchers registered at UK universities.

The YES model provides a learning experience to enable researchers to:

  • understand the issues involved in the commercialisation of science;
  • gain an insight into the challenges faced by companies; and
  • obtain transferrable skills such as commercial awareness, entrepreneurship and communication skills.

It has an alumni base exceeding 5,000 with over 21 years of strong partnerships between the co-organisers at The University of Nottingham’s Haydn Green Institute, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

YES, The Competition

YES competitions are typically run over three days, with researchers hearing from leading industry figures on a number of topics during the first two mornings.  Their business plan is then prepared with the help of mentors.  The final day, researchers present their business plan before a panel comprised of business, financial and academic representatives taking the role of equity investors.  Winners of the competition receive cash funding with other prizes also available.

The Competition so far……..

Last week, for the second year running, Unilever, Colworth hosted the ‘food, health and wellbeing’ workshop for Biotechnology YES and also the inaugural ‘sustainable by design’ workshop for Environment YES.  During the workshop the 72 researchers gained a first-hand insight through a series of presentations on:

  • The Unilever Innovation Process
  • The Requirements of a Business Plan
  • Intellectual Property and Patenting Strategy
  • Sustainable by Design Innovations
  • Raising and Managing Finance
  • Safety and Regulatory
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Company Case Histories

On the Wednesday, all the teams visited the Happiness Station where Pete Belton and Sally Gilbert, of Unilever, shared their experiences of selling direct to consumers and got everyone involved in creating a new milkshake flavour to take to market.  Happy shakes all around!!!

Company, Hot Bronze Happiness Station, University of Leicester.

University of Leicester – tasting their ‘Rio Carnival’ shake

Using the knowledge gained, and with assistance from expert mentors, the researchers then prepared plans for their businesses making a formal oral presentation on the Final afternoon. Teams selected to go to the Finals were:

Biotechnology YES

Durham University – a fragrance that lasts a mealtime

Durham University – a fragrance that lasts a mealtime

University of Leicester – a novel self-tanning lotion

University of Leicester – a novel self-tanning lotion



















Environment YES

Team 23 University of Edinburgh Crytech Solutions

University of Edinburgh – a detection method for Cryptosporidium










What next?

Over the next five weeks, workshops will be hosted at MediCity Nottingham; Syngenta; GSK and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst; and the University of Manchester Innovation Centre.

Interested in taking part next year?

The competition process has benefited over 5,000 alumni and has made a £1.8 billion economic impact through salaries alone.  Feedback from previous entrants concur this:

“It has taught me a lot about how companies such as Unilever use science to underpin their products, and the sort of work and considerations that need to be undertaken with each new project.”

“Participating in the competition made me realise how important market research is.  It is easy to become too absorbed just by the idea.  Taking a step back and looking at the market/potential buyers is a good test for reassessing the idea.”

“It was a really great opportunity and I’m very happy that I did it …  I found it daunting initially as I had zero business experience but quickly realised everyone was in the same boat. I think the extremely friendly atmosphere helped a lot with this and allowed me to learn about business in a non-daunting way.  The selection of speakers were great and the mentoring was very valuable.  It has made me more interested in going into business and I’d recommend it to any other PhD student.”

More information can be found on the competition Facebook and Twitter page. Good luck!

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