Networking is vital to biotech because companies can only grow and bring their products to market through developing the right contacts, alliances, and entrepreneurial skills. Additionally, as the business goes global, networking skills have never been more important.
An obvious way to network is to attend partnering meetings, which are increasing in popularity, even though they also consume valuable time and resources. Partnering meetings, however, are usually focused on making deals and there is more to building a successful global biobusiness than securing formal agreements. The softer skills of entrepreneurship and mentoring and the creation of long-term, sustained, partnerships, both formal and informal, are equally important.
“Lots of biotech entrepreneurs believe that if they invented it they should be allowed to run it, even though there is no hard evidence that scientists can run companies. Running a company is different from inventing the science,“ says Ken Morse, head of entrepreneurship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “What´s needed is teamwork between the company builders and the company scientists, and such teamwork is in short supply everywhere. The missing link is teaming or pairing between breakthrough science and breakthrough business.“
GEP Builds Global Teamwork
To aid this kind of teamwork, U.K. Trade & Investment (U.K. T & I), the lead government organization helping business locate in the U.K. and grow internationally, has launched the Global Entrepreneurship Programme (GEP) which seeks to attract and assist entrepreneurs and scientists who are looking for opportunities worldwide in high technology and life sciences. These are both global sectors, and the resources needed to build successful businesses will not necessarily be found in one country.
GEP is attracting technology and lifescience entrepreneurs, potential IP, and management talent to the U.K. Its work is carried out by a team of four dealmakers, who look for relevant global opportunities through networking. A dealmaker, in this context, is an entrepreneur who uses his/her experience and networks to access deal flow and opportunities for the program. The government uses the analogy that “as it takes a thief to spot a thief, so it takes an entrepreneur to spot a deal.“ Hence, the dealmaker was conceived.
Key to the success of GEP is the dealmakers´ access to global networks. “Mentoring provides the lonely genius with the link to customers, capital, and team members who share their vision,“ explains Morse. U.K. T & I started up this mentoring program with veterans from the private sector who have the essential clock speed and compassion, he asserts. “These are critical factors that are hard to find in public servants. Our own research has shown the clear benefit of such public-private partnerships.“
GEP's Client Base
GEP´s clients are U.K. life science companies seeking to cross two chasms—to go from local to global, starting across the Atlantic, and to go from research bench to bedside. GEP´s main focus is on North America, India, and, more recently, Australia. Thus far it has achieved 36 wins, pulling in over $100 million in investment over three years.
GEP is now sponsoring a new initiative, known as the Life Science Mentoring Programme, which aims to create opportunities for collaborations between U.S. entrepreneurs, as well as senior executives from big pharma, who act as mentors, and U.K. biotech companies that want to go global.
“Mentoring is essential,“ says Morse. “It is closely related to networking, which is mission critical in bringing new technologies to market. You can´t teach all the elements of entrepreneurship in the classroom—people also need to learn through trial and error so you need networking, coaching, and mentoring.“
Mentors coach companies to become robust and prepare them to commence international commercialization; as a first stage they could also champion U.K. companies into U.S. networks and assist with U.S. commercialization.
In short the mentor could become an advisor or nonexecutive director and help U.K. companies think bigger and globally. And finally, the initiative hopes to use U.S. talent to introduce U.S. investment—VC and other money—to British opportunities and realize the arbitrage opportunities from investing in this market.
It is not easy to get experienced people, including ex-pats, to migrate to the U.K., so the program provides an opportunity to build bridges and maximize global opportunities. Equally important is securing support for those companies wanting to push forward more aggressively from lab bench to market, but perhaps lacking the entrepreneurial skills to do so.
The mentoring program´s clients are emerging U.K. biotechs. It is the early-stage companies or firms that have been working for about a couple of years and have raised some funding that may have the most to gain from this scheme, since they are at the stage where they need to learn about being in the marketplace.
To kick-start the mentoring initiative, GEP recently invited 700 targeted senior individuals from the life sciences and pharmaceutical sectors to receptions in New York and Boston, with the help of ERBI and BIA Scotland.
The Mentoring Programme is supported by ERBI, the regional organization for biotech in Cambridge and the East of England, as well as BIA (BioIndustry Association) Scotland, who are identifying suitable U.K. companies among their membership.
Advantages of GEP in the U.K.
Entrepreneurs now look beyond national borders for access to capital, talent, and opportunities. Networks are not just about locations. Access to talent and funding are more important. New talent, ideas, and entrepreneurial activity are wealth creators and the playing field is global.
GEP recognizes that the U.K. provides some of the most favorable entrepreneurial conditions for creating new technology-based companies with global potential.
While the U.S. is still ahead in many respects, the U.K. is providing arbitrage, IP, as well as corporate and tax advantages. This means that the U.K. has an environment with benefits for the global entrepreneur. The U.K. government has recognized this and is using the skills and networks of the dealmakers to make things happen through the GEP.