As part of the ACCE programme students are encouraged to attend Environment or Biotech YES, an entrepreneurial event which students pitch a fictitious product to a panel of investors. Teams of 4-5 PhD or post-doctoral researchers compete for “funding”, and if successful are entered into the national competition in London with a prize of £2500. If the team is successful again they are then invited to Houston, Texas , USA to compete again in the Rice Business Plan Competition.
Vincent Keenan, who is an ACCE first cohort student, was a part of a team participated in the Environment Yes competition this year.
Here is what he shared about his experience:
‘Our team – Microsolutions – created a product that aided cleaning by spraying a solution that developed a biofilm which kept the black moulds that develop around showers and baths. We originally had a team of four but had a late drop out and were reduced to only three. This proved difficult and challenging as the amount of work involved is too much for only three, therefore we struggled to touch all bases. For your business plan you must consider: IP, profit projection, markets, competitors, running costs and time lines. There really isn’t a true end to the considerations, but you have to give it a go! Over two days we were treated to food and case studies from those who have started their own businesses, which was deeply fascinating – particularly at how simple some of the ideas behind the businesses are. These case studies are punctuated with working on the business model and receiving advice from specialists in some of the aforementioned areas like IP. This all culminates in the presentation when you dress to the nines to impress the investors – think the BBC’s “Dragon’s Den”. You are questioned on flaws in your plan – which you may be aware of or not – and you would address these. Our flaws were more than apparent having only three team members, but we held our own – perhaps they were being kind…
Ultimately, it was an enjoyable experience, at the time we were stressed and worrying about grey hairs, but after the presentation we all clearly seen the benefits. It was an insight to the world of entrepreneurship which PhD programmes do not provide, a potential option for a career outside of academia and a chance for students to see first-hand how transferable their skills actually are. I would strongly recommend other students within the ACCE DTP to join in and gain a different perspective of their skill sets, potential avenues for after they complete their PhDs, the chance to network with others at the event, and of course an all-expense paid jolly for a few days with team mates!