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A tailored experience: Accelerating early-stage ventures in life sciences

Karolina_Zapadka_Accelerate2The Babraham Research Campus is considered to be one of the UK’s leading campuses to support start-up and scale-up bioscience enterprise and is distinct in its co-location of over 60 bioscience companies with the Babraham Institute. World-class research and business come together to promote innovation and strengthen links between academia and the commercial world. Our vision is to be the best place in Europe to start and grow a biomedical company. To date, over £1.2 billion has been invested in life science companies located here. 

In January 2018 we launched Accelerate@Babraham - an initiative designed to support life science ventures at the very earliest stages of development - giving them access to laboratory and office space alongside supporting programmes of business, science, finance and entrepreneurial mentoring. As part of this new initiative, we ran the first Accelerate@Babraham start-up competition in July – awarding five young life science ventures the opportunity to participate in the Accelerate@Babraham programme, along with non-dilutive funding (£20,000 each). The winners cover a broad life science spectrum, including therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics, process development, digital health, machine learning and AI. 

A primary objective for us in delivering the programme was to not only enable our entrepreneurs to access lab space and equipment they might ordinarily not have been able to access, but to also equip them with the wider commercial skills and knowledge they would need to succeed. Giving them access to our extensive life sciences network and introducing high-potential investors was key, but we also went a step further - matching each venture (and at times individuals within these ventures) with expert mentors that had specific and personal experience within relevant fields. To ensure the best possible fit, each expert was also interviewed prior to being matched. Feedback from the start-ups confirmed that this approach added significant value to their interactions and was a formula they hadn’t experienced elsewhere. As one of our cohort said: “It’s been really powerful to have someone in our corner who’s been there before, surpassed the challenge and succeeded – it’s incredibly motivating.” 

In addition, our workshop sessions focused on the steps required to effectively develop a more commercial approach to the development and communication of their ventures. For example, how to refine the investor pitch; company structure (ensuring the right people are in the right roles); and the importance of strategy – laying the foundations for a sustainable business model rather than being pressured to go out and raise the next round. 

Success for us is assisting these young ventures across every aspect of their business during their time with us – it’s not all about the science. Commercial know-how and being able to confidently communicate propositions to stakeholders, potential collaborators and in some cases, patients, is just as key. The result, we hope, will be the creation of new therapies, businesses, jobs and eventually new UK-bred big life science companies that will maximise the impact of UK life science, in addition to improving world health. 

The Accelerate@Babraham activities have had strategic support from a number of organisations including AstraZeneca, Medimmune, Rxcelerate, One Nucleus, Lilly, SVB and Taylor Vinters. 

Karolina Zapadka is Business Acceleration Manager at Accelerate@Babraham.

Learn more: An abridged version of this article features in the LSX Investor Perception Survey 2019. The full report is available to download for free via the link below. You can also read the survey findings focusing on talent and executive strategy in our white paper extract:

Download the LSX Investor Perception Survey 2019 Read the White Paper: Talent & Executive Strategy

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Karolina Zapadka
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