Lean Entrepreneur in Biosciences training course – A Student Ambassador’s perspective

Speed networking at the training

This article is courtesy of our SANBio Student Ambassador for Namibia, Hatago Aibate Stuurmann, who participated in our latest training workshop.

The NEPAD-SANBio/BioFISA II programme organized a Lean Entrepreneur workshop for the third time on 10-14 October 2016. The five day workshop aimed at supporting proposal development of research projects from nine countries in the Southern African region.

Bioscience experts with diverse projects, focused on finding solutions for challenges facing the Southern Africa region, gathered to learn concepts and principals of business model development and proposal writing and their application. An opportunity of this nature strengthens and enhances and diversifies the skills and knowledge of bioscientists and their commercial partners to scale-up commercial research results. I also had the opportunity to sit through the lectures and activities to gain an understanding of the various aspects, concepts and approaches related to proposal and business plan development. This way of looking at scientific research and development was new to me in many ways, as I am mostly used to working in a laboratory setting.

I believe that supporting innovative research development approaches such as this has the potential to improve the livelihoods of people in the Southern Africa region in many different ways through the impact they facilitate.

The training included plenty of intermingled and lively discussions amongst the participants from the region and most importantly sharing of ideas, experiences and perceptions amongst partners. I also had an opportunity to chat to the researchers and their commercial partners about the work they are conducting and how they felt about stepping outside their normal laboratory settings and applying business approaches to their research outputs.

As part of the training, teams had to consult with potential product end-users, consumers and clients to help them focus on what is relevant to developing a successful business model and product. The most interesting session was the presentations of the teams’ business model canvases functioned as a principal apparatus to improve the overall proposal writing and business model development, also playing a critical role in clarifying the rationales and increasing conciseness of the individual bioscience teams presentations, and preparing the teams for the opportunity to pitch their bioentrepreneurial business plans at the Dragon's Den session held on Friday.

The official networking dinner held on Thursday evening was opened by SANBio Network Manager Dr Ereck Chakauya, followed by guest speakers from the Embassy of Finland and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in South Africa. This event created an opportunity for me to engage and network with more bioscientists, commercial partners and stakeholders from various walks of lives. The speakers at the event emphasised the significance of collaborative research, development and innovation in the Southern Africa region and the commercialization of the research outputs for the benefit of the people. The highlight for me during the evening was receiving the official appointment certificate as the SANBio Student Ambassador for Namibia.

From my discussions with the participants, I know the training was deemed a success and invaluable in providing new perspectives and a practical toolset of skills for commercialisation-oriented biosciences research.

Hatago Aibate Stuurmann

SANBio Student Ambassador for Namibia