June 27, 2023, by aczjb1

Building new connections with YES!

This blog is written by Charlotte Fawcett, a PhD researcher in the Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Genomic Epidemiology and Public Health Genomics at the University of Leicester. 

I received an email about YES22 last September, and went to one of the ‘Find out more’ sessions, where I heard about how ideas can be commercialised by developing a business plan for a hypothetical start-up company. And that the application deadline was just four days later!

Charlotte Fawcett

I sent several frantic emails to find out more about the competition and attempted to put a team together. This ultimately failed and I ended up signing up to YES as an individual competitor, ready to be put in a team with individuals from other research institutes.

My team consisted of me and researchers from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), with none of us ever meeting prior to the competition. In this way, YES was extremely beneficial, building new connections from the very first day. We also broadened our networks, with support from individuals at our universities and industry experts who reviewed our pitch.

We spent the first few weeks deciding on our product, which in hindsight was probably too long, as we then needed to go back over previous content and integrate it into our business slide deck, with only a short time remaining until pitch day. Despite our time constraints, we successfully went through to the final. This gave us plenty of time to rehearse our pitch to match the seven-minute time limit, improve our slides and fill in any knowledge gaps.

This proved very successful as we won the Best Healthcare business Plan prize, sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Over the course of the competition, I learnt several key messages:

  • The importance of time management; we spent so long deciding what our product would be that we initially neglected the actual pitch. This led to several intense weeks, with a high volume of meetings needed to cover this. It would have been helpful to set ourselves an earlier deadline to decide on our product, to ensure we had plenty of preparation time to complete our pitch.
  • Although within our team we allocate roles, such as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer to different members, it’s important for everyone in the team to know all the areas of your pitch. This ensures you are learning all of the valuable information, not only which is related to your role, to be able to support your teammates on pitch day.
  • You can learn the skills needed for enterprise, even if you come from an academic background. I always thought that due to my science background I would not be well aligned to the world of finance and business start-ups. But, the support from the YES programme meant that I was able to overcome this. This ultimately led to our successful pitch and the confidence that I would be able to do this in the future – maybe for a real product!

I loved taking part in YES and would recommend it to anyone who is able to take part. It is time consuming, but immensely valuable for anyone who wants a taste of enterprise and to learn more about how to commercialise their research ideas.

Find out more about #YES23.

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