Aspiring biotechnology entrepreneurs from the University of Cambridge won the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) 2012 after a day of tough competition in London.The team behind the ‘Calvitium Solutions’ business idea scooped the £1,000 top prize in the annual contest co-organised by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) at the London Marriot Hotel County Hall.
Team members Ajoeb Baridi, Alap Chavda, Anastasiia Kamenska, Liam Hurst and Linsey Porter saw off competition from 11 other teams in the final to win with their idea for a hypothetical hair loss prevention product, which impressed a panel of expert judges from academia and industry.
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: “The participants in this competition have shown that there is a bright future ahead for biological science. This is one of the most vibrant and increasingly important sectors of the UK. They are developing the skills needed to translate world class research into wider economic and social benefits.”
The competition, in its 17th year, sees bioscience postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers develop hypothetical business plans for plausible biotechnology companies. They receive help and advice from speakers, mentors and judges in areas such as intellectual property, financial planning and marketing.
The team members assume the roles of directors of their company and seek funding for their business plan from a group of “equity investors” – drawn from science and industry.
The hypothetical companies compete against each other and during the process participants gain valuable knowledge and skills about entrepreneurship, the world of business and commercialisation, in addition to transferable skills such as team working and time management.
Alap Chavda, who assumed the managing director role for their Calvitium Solutions business idea, said: “To win feels quite amazing, we certainly worked hard. We knew it would be a tough competition. The main purpose was to experience the commercialisation process. We tend to just think about science really and not about money so it was quite a different world we actually experienced. It’s given us a real knowledge about how it works.
“The experience is absolutely worth it, not only for those who want to go into business but having experienced that different world people can make a better choice for future careers.”
The five members of Calvitium Solutions came top of the 377 competitors across 82 teams in five regional workshops held in October and November.
This year for the first time a Biomedical-themed workshop was hosted by GSK and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst which attracted researchers from the clinical biosciences. It also received support from the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Technology Strategy Board.
Another Cambridge University team – Vermunity Ltd – won the ‘Best healthcare business plan’ category sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline. Vermunity is a biotech company that has a unique peptide discovery platform based on parasitic worm biology to develop treatments for autoimmune diseases.
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: The Calvitium Solutions’ winning team