Introducing Environment YES
On Tuesday, Sheffield ACCE students had the opportunity to meet Kevin Parker, an entrepreneurial trainer with experience of mentoring teams for the NERC’s Environment YES competition. This was an opportunity to find out more about the competition: how it works and what benefits it can provide to participants.
The aim of Environment YES (Young Entrepreneurs Scheme), and its biotech counterpart Biotechnology YES is to provide early career researchers with insight into the world of business and entrepreneurship. Participants are challenged to think about how research innovation can be made relevant in a commercial setting. As much as anything, though, it is a chance for early career researchers to develop a range of skills that are relevant not only for business but for many different career paths, whether in academia or industry.
So what’s involved? The premise is that teams of four or five work together to develop a business pitch, based on a hypothetical technological advance that could be applied to solving a real world problem. Rather like Dragon’s Den, the teams must deliver their pitch to a panel of real-world investors and entrepreneurs, and try to persuade them to fund the proposed venture. Unlike Dragons Den, however, the judges are not there to be rude; they assess the pitches according to their strengths and are likely to be genuinely interested in the teams.
An intensive three-day regional workshop leads up to the initial presentation, providing opportunities to learn about finance, project management, intellectual property and other relevant topics. In addition, mentors such as Kevin provide on the ground advice about how to structure the presentation. Members of a team each takes on a business role (CEO, Chief Finance Officer and so forth) and everyone is expected to contribute to the pitch, which is given on the final afternoon. Teams are not restricted to being from the same institution or discipline but can combine a range of backgrounds and levels of experience (for example, postgraduate and post-doctoral researchers).
Successful teams from the regional rounds go on to the final in London in December, with the chance to win a prize of £2500 and to network with interested parties from the business world. Sheffield has a good record, with finalists in Environment YES and Biotechnology YES for the past three years. And there are success stories from many individual participants who have gone on to careers in entrepreneurship and knowledge exchange.
The skills required for success in the competition are wide-ranging and applicable to careers as diverse as a tenured professor, consultancy and business entrepreneur: innovation, team skills, problem-solving, project management, knowledge exchange and communication skills. Moreover, the competition is an opportunity to meet influential people who may be the key to a future career. Participants are invited to join a LinkedIn group which provides access to job listings from within the industry. Even if a business is not the focus of your career, there could be much to be gained from saying “yes” to Environment YES.
For more information on the competition, visit the Environment YES website:
Applications for the 2016 competition are due by 27th May 2016, with workshops taking place in several locations during the autumn. The final is in London on 5th December. Entering the competition is free of charge (subject to a refundable deposit) and accommodation and reasonable travel expenses are covered.
Participation in the Environment YES competition counts towards the ‘Careers and Communication Portfolio’ to which ACCE students are expected to devote a minimum of 6 weeks during their Ph.D.