Team:Lethbridge Entrepreneurs/expe



iGEM has become a well-recognized program throughout the University of Lethbridge. It is regarded as being very valuable by both faculty in the science departments and by people in other departments, such as management. iGEM has also been recognized by the President, Vice President Academic and Vice President of Research at the University. These individuals have been extremely supportive of our endeavours over the last few years.

Steve Craig, a member of the Faculty of Management, said “Entrepreneurial iGEM is an excellent opportunity for students to expand their educational experience to areas outside pure science. Through this initiative students develop knowledge and skills in market research, project management, stakeholder analysis / communications, ethics and risk management (among others).

iGEM has clearly given us the opportunity to learn skills that can be applied to areas outside scientific research, such as presentation skills, creativity and social awareness. And like Mr. Craig said, in the entrepreneurial stream, we learn how to adapt our skills to a business-focused project.

For many of the members of the Lethbridge Entrepreneurial iGEM team, their first public presentation was at an iGEM Jamboree. Scientific presentations are not addressed in class until upper level courses are reached. We had to learn how to create and give an impactful presentation. We are all familiar with the scientific aspects of our project and are quite comfortable talking about them.

When we were required to give a business pitch presentation at the business plan competitions, we were somewhat less comfortable speaking about our project, as we had to address market size, financial statements, etc. At this point, we were still learning about these aspects of business, which posed challenges when it came to presenting about these topics. Due to past experience with iGEM, we already had developed the skills to give presentations and we were able to apply this to our new content. This experience made it much easier for us to do well in the business plan competitions.

The entrepreneurial stream of iGEM has given us the opportunity to explore the economic impact of synthetic biology. In previous iGEM projects with which the group has been involved, we were not required to consider how our project would fit into a specific market or effect the economy. For entrepreneurial iGEM, we had to learn how to do market research and adapt our financial projections based on the market. We had to develop a whole new skill set, learning how to integrate business and science.

Many first time iGEM students are faced with tackling the steep learning curve of understanding synthetic biology while learning new lab skills and usually balancing classes at the same time. In order for this to be undertaken appropriately a few key skills are required, practiced and built upon. These include organization and time management, these are a unique experience for each student, and are required in the end to sync with those of their team mates. As a team we have learned that available time to contribute to the project might now always line up and that the work will still need to be completed. This has led us to develop skills in project management, where a global overview of the project is required. From this perspective we are able to work on setting goals and understanding outside commitments so that we can align a work schedule with available time.

Dr. Ute Kothe, Associate Professor of Biochemistry, has seen first-hand how the Synbiologica team has grown and learned from High School, Collegiate and Entrepreneurial iGEM in these ways. She states, “The entrepreneurial iGEM opportunity offers students the richest learning environment I have ever seen. The four students in the Lethbridge team, whom I all know personally, have grown significantly while working on this project. They all have acquired a range of professional skills that are far beyond what is offered in a regular science program. Obviously, they have gained deep insight into management, budgeting, patenting, creating business plans and other topics associated with forming a start-up company. But in my eyes even more valuable is what they learned about themselves: these students have experienced that with motivation and determination anything is possible. They have learned that they can learn anything if they want to. They have developed an incredible independence. They have learned to communicate with any type of person to promote their cause. All this not only helps them in their entrepreneurial iGEM project, but it will be a catalyst for their future careers in any type of field whether it will be scientific, entrepreneurial or even something entirely unrelated.

The Lethbridge Entrepreneurial iGEM team and Synbiologica would like to thank the iGEM Foundation for all the opportunities it has given us. We are grateful for everything we have experienced and learned throughout our synthetic biology careers, much of which would not have been possible without the wonderful people who organize and judge the competition.