Picture 182What does it take to be a leader in the biotechnology sector? Earlier this month at the UK Bioscience Forum, our ‘Game-changing Leaders’ panel session discussed the different attributes required to lead a company and how this evolves through the lifecycle of a business. Here are some of the key points to take away for any aspiring entrepreneurs and CEOs of the future:

  • There are many behavioural determinants for a successful leader, however as a business evolves these requirements will change. Businesses go through phases and require different leadership at each stage
  • Failure can be key to future success
  • Diversity within an organisation is essential to encourage innovation
  • Having a clear culture within an organisation is important, both to encourage the best from your employees and to attract the right talent.

Later this week, BioBeat14 will explore leadership in the bioscience sector and celebrate its female leaders at the ‘50 Movers and Shakers’ event. Below, Miranda Weston-Smith, founder of BioBeat, discusses disrupting the status quo in biotech and recognising the contribution of biotech’s leading women.

Biotechology has shaken up the business environment, creating new ways of thinking and a model for open innovation that is being adopted by other industries. I have advised many biotech entrepreneurs and looking back over the last 10 years can see the impact that they have made both on the pharma industry and beyond.

Biotechnologists came straight from academia and started to commercialise their work without first joining one of the large established companies. This created a major disruptive influence on the status quo. For the first time, instead of innovation being produced from within the organisation, there became scope for pharmaceutical businesses to fill their product pipelines by ‘purchasing’ interesting molecules and technology from small organisations.

Large pharmaceutical companies started to outsource the elements of their businesses that were not core competencies and to look outside for new ideas and approaches. As a result, the life sciences sector has seen a radical restructure with the growth of clusters of businesses with mutual dependencies. This is continuing with new communities which, by working collaboratively, are increasing our understanding of the action of therapeutics at a gene level.  This has led to the detection of novel biomarkers, stem cell treatments and has created opportunities for personalised and preventative medicine.

The result is not just diversification of the industry, but it has also driven the creation of new business models and a need for a variety of skills sets.

Although I have seen an increasing proportion of women in leadership roles at all levels in bio companies this has not been reflected by the number of women on the podium, cited as thought leaders in the media, or on investor panels. As a result, the industry has been missing their insights and the valuable role models they can provide to younger scientists.

To address this issue I developed the concept of ’50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness 2014′ and challenged the industry to recognise the contribution that senior women are making. I saw the potential for female leaders to inspire the next wave of bio innovation and build a stronger life sciences sector.

Research suggests that women adopt different strategies for business growth; from novel ways of building companies and working in teams, to raising funds and attitudes to risk.

BioBeat14 aims to look at the next generation of business ideas with a debate on ‘Leading in a Collaborative World’ to tease out how bio companies can stay ahead with new ways of working and adapting to ever changing global health needs. As the biotech industry comes of age, the entrepreneurs who benefitted in the early wave now have the money, and the appetite, to invest in new approaches.

Investors invest in people, and the suggestion is that recruiting the ‘same again’ is detrimental to the future growth of a company.

Increasing the visibility of dynamic women in companies, research, hospitals, finance and advisory roles with their visions and boldness brings fresh thinking and opportunities for bio entrepreneurs. We can double our life science business potential.

UPDATE: The BioBeat report 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness 2014 is now available,  identifying 50 inspirational women in biobusiness in the UK who are challenging the status quo and bringing better health to people around the world.