Brief report on the experience by Sarah Heath (University of Edinburgh)
In September 2016, four of us on the EASTBIO DTP, Sarah Heath, Stevie Bain, Tom Booker and Edward Ivimey-Cook, participated in Environment YES, a competition organised by the University of Nottingham. Environment YES is specially designed for postgraduate students and postdocs to develop business awareness and an understanding of entrepreneurship. The aim was to develop an innovative idea that would work as a business but also benefit the environment.
We attended a three-day workshop hosted by Unilever where we had presentations and mentoring sessions with professionals in industry from a variety of business and scientific backgrounds. The workshop concluded with a pitch of our business plan to an expert panel of hypothetical investors. Our business idea was a method to detect waterborne pathogens in water treatment works that would be faster and more accurate than current techniques. While the science was an important component of our pitches, we also had to consider cash flow, IP and marketing - many concepts that were previously alien to us. We were delighted to win and make it through to the final, proving that all of our hard work paid off! The final was held in December at the Royal Society in London. The standard of the pitches was high and it was great to see how far everyone had come.
Participating in Environment YES was an excellent opportunity to get out of the lab and try something completely different. All the participants came from a scientific background so it was a steep learning curve as we were forced into an entrepreneurial way of thinking. Overall, we would highly recommend this experience to other PhD students – even if you think business isn’t for you. It is a very rewarding experience that makes you think about your own research in a completely different way. Environment YES really challenged us and we met some great people along the way!