June 1, 2021, by Amanda Miller
Stepping out of your comfort zone with YES
For 24 years, science and engineering researchers, from UK universities, have been stepping out of their comfort zones to take part in the Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) – a competition developed to raise awareness of how ideas can be commercialised.
Over this time, around 6,000 researchers have invested hours of preparation to deploy novel ideas to address societal and environmental challenges by developing a business plan for a start-up company based on a hypothetical but plausible idea during an intense three-day residential workshop.
The workshop is where the magic happens. It encompasses presentations and mentoring sessions from leading figures in industry and culminates in business pitches to a panel of ‘equity investors’.
Who would have thought when we launched last March to recruit our 25th cohort that we would be hosting 12 months later online. For those who know me, my IT skills aren’t too shabby but pivoting from our tried and tested model personally filled me with dread. On this occasion, I too would be stepping outside my comfort zone!
Looking back, I experienced a number of feelings:
- excitement that the programme could go ahead rather than being postponed
- apprehension – would we achieve the same impact as a face-to-face event?
- fear that the technology would fail us and I would fail the technology (especially on one occasion when a utilities van pulled up outside my house and started digging up the road – complete power outage was not part of the risk assessment!)
- acceptance as the researchers confirmed their intention to continue their YES journey despite the switch and as our stakeholders, speakers, mentors and judges agreed to get involved with gusto
- a high when our 196 strong cohort, representing 28 UK universities, finally delivered their business pitches way beyond our expectations
Looking forward, there have been many benefits:
- expanded my knowledge of online delivery – thanks to all those who shared lessons learnt your input was invaluable!
- increased self-confidence as I would rather be behind the camera than in front of it but hosting weekly webinars (22 in total!) threw me into the spotlight
- built new relationships as we grew our programme offering
- willingness to change created untapped opportunities including our global reach – 10 researchers from Malaysia took part in one of the three-day workshops
- sparked my inner creativity (this still needs some work!)
- sense of belonging as HGI colleagues, stakeholders, advocates and alumni of YES pulled together to deliver YES20
I love this quote that I came across recently by Ralph Waldo Emerson “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” This is so true as we plan a hybrid model for YES21!
For STEM researchers who may be reading this, make sure you have added YES to your autumn calendar if you too wish to step out of your comfort zone.
Register your interest for YES21
Tracey Hassall-Jones, Manager, Young Entrepreneurs Scheme
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