The four team members pose for a photo in front of the YES banner

April 23, 2024, by aezdb

Broadening Horizons to YES: A path to innovation

“I would describe Broadening Horizons and YES as discovery streets, and I am glad to have walked them.” 

Great science thrives as part of an inclusive and diverse professional community. However, many chemists from minoritised racial and ethnic backgrounds still face systemic barriers, with many leaving the profession following undergraduate studies (Royal Society of Chemistry, 2024). Broadening Horizons in the Chemical Sciences is a programme designed to directly address this problem, offering support to students and graduates from minoritised racial and ethnic backgrounds to pursue careers in the chemical sciences.  

For YES23, we were delighted to have a group from the Broadening Horizons programme join us and take part. Ngozi Emenike, Habiba Otaru, Godwin Chukwu and Ephraim Okolo all studied at different institutions across the UK but were united on a similar path of innovation. Their company idea for YES was in the sustainable agriculture category, called Agrochem Discovery Limited, a crop protection research organisation. The proposal for the company was to make high-quality agrochemicals that have the potential for minimal negative environmental impact.  

Ngozi Emenike spoke with us about her journey of self-discovery embarked on through the two programmes “Participating in Broadening Horizons was like stepping into a realm of endless possibilities,” she reflects. “I was initially hesitant, but the taster event in Manchester opened my eyes to a world of cultural exchange and networking opportunities. I met my teammates (for YES) at this event, and we exchanged contacts. It was challenging working together remotely being that we were from four different institutions, but we made sure to fix meetings over MS Teams.” 

Dr Ephraim Okolo, too, spoke with us about his experiences: “YES was a whirlwind of innovation and collaboration. Despite the geographical distances separating us, we leveraged technology to work seamlessly as a team, refining our business acumen and honing our entrepreneurial spirit.” 

(L-R) Ngozi Emenike, Ephraim Okolo, Godwin Chukwu, Habiba Otaru, Daniel Similaki, and Dr Steve Smith 

For Ngozi, the journey through Broadening Horizons and YES opened up a new world of inspiration: “Meeting colleagues from diverse backgrounds was eye-opening,” Ngozi says. “Listening to their stories and sharing experiences made me realise the power of connection and community. Working with mentors like Kevin Parker (Royal Society of Chemistry) and Daniel Similaki (Founder, Afro Caribbean Commercial Science Network) instilled in us a sense of belief and conviction in our vision,” she shares. “Their unwavering support and guidance fuelled our determination, propelling us towards our entrepreneurial aspirations.” 

Syngenta is a leading science-based agricultural technology company that partners with the Broadening Horizons programme to provide mentorship to participants. This partnership, and the subsequent guidance provided to the Agrochem Discovery Limited team by Dr Steve Smith demonstrates the Broadening Horizons programme’s commitment to connecting researchers from minoritised racial and ethnic backgrounds to industry-leading companies. “Syngenta’s support was instrumental” Ephraim acknowledges. “Their commitment to nurturing talent and fostering innovation underscored the symbiotic relationship between academia and industry.”  

We also recognise that funding can often be a barrier for minoritised groups to pursue their passions. As well as Syngenta kindly supporting the group with their travel costs, we were happy to provide bursaries to Ngozi, Godwin and Habiba, and the BBSRC supported Ephraim with his registration fee. Ngozi reflects on this as one of the highlights of her experience, saying “Not having to worry about finance throughout the competition, which would have been a limiting factor because Dr Steve Smith from Syngenta and Tracey Hassall-Jones from YES made sure we were fully supported.” 

The journey of the Agrochem Discovery Limited team reminds us of the transformative power of mentorship, collaboration, and perseverance. We were delighted to have this inspiring team of researchers as part of YES23, and we can’t wait to see what they do in the future. 

Are you interested in taking part in YES24? Applications are now open. You can read more information, including how to apply, on the YES website. 

Posted in Uncategorized