NEPAD-SANBio/BioFISA II arranged a Lean LaunchPad™ Training Program for shortlisted seed funding candidates at the CSIR in Pretoria on 14–18 March 2016 to facilitate better proposal writing.
The training, held by Mr Will Cardwell from Courage Ventures, sought to address and bridge the gap between research and commercialization. The basis of the training was formed by the Lean LaunchPad™ methodology. Focus issues included business model generation using the business model canvas as a tool, customer development (engaging customers constantly), and agile processes (quick iteration and development cycles).
The week also included presentations by Mrs Lara Kotzé-Jacobs from CSIR Biomanufacturing Industry Development Centre (BIDC) and Dr Antonel Olckers from DNAbiotec Ltd. The focus of the training was on delivering products or services that benefit customers, and one participant indeed noted: “The best and most challenging [aspect of the training] for researchers was the gathering of feedback from customers.”
To conclude the training week, a Dragon’s Den session was arranged where the teams were given a chance to pitch their projects to industry and science experts who gave them feedback. The teams can now integrate the feedback they received to their full proposals to increase their likelihood of receiving funding for their projects – either through BioFISA II or other funding parties.
The training was closely linked to the motto of the BioFISA II programme, “Business meets Biosciences”, as one of the main goals of BioFISA II is to support research that translates into commercialisable products and services with a significant impact at the end-user level. The training also fed into the different components of NEPAD-SANBio’s mission, including supporting an effective and dynamic regional research network, enhancing human capacity, and developing and commercialising innovation products in health and nutrition.
The feedback from participants was very positive. “I gained knowledge and information to help us submit a proposal that is not only science-based but also takes into consideration making a profit as we find solutions to problems faced by our potential customers,” said one participant, while another noted: “The most important aspect of BioFISA II in my opinion is making science a reality – instead of science being mainly restricted to the scientific community it becomes a real thing providing tangible solutions.”
After the training, the participants could incorporate what they had learned to their full project proposals. The shortlisted applicants submitted their full proposals on 30 March 2016, and the final grant decisions will be announced by the 29th of April.
Additional feedback by participants below.
“The training has made me ask questions about our product and how best to match it to customer and market needs. I will definitely start using the hypothesis-based approach to product development – the training really helped to shift my perspective on biotech entrepreneurship. “
“I feel encouraged that scientists can go into business and that research can lead to products on the market.”
“I will ask myself all the questions from the business model canvas every time I start a new project so that it does not just end up in a scientific paper but will also be relevant to the outside world.”
“The training has very much changed my outlook on marketing and commercialising an idea. The lean startup model really helps scientists to grasp the key elements of a business quickly.”
Image gallery can be found here.