Figure 1: Opening of the event by Mélissa Vincent, Chair of the North West Biotech Initiative
On the grey Saturday 10th of June 2017, excited students gathered in their masses at the University of Manchester where the third edition of the Northern Biotech Consulting Case Competition took place. This event brought together business professionals and PhD students from all over the North West for a full day of intense competition, out-of-the-box problem solving and professional growth opportunities.
As consulting teams of 3 to 5 people, competitors advised a fictional “big pharma” giant (“Daraga INC.”) on the best strategy to help replenish its diminishing product portfolio. Eight teams presented their final proposals in front of Daraga INC’s “Executive Board” composed of a panel of business and healthcare experts.
The morning kicked-off with a series a talks delivered by our guest judges:
Nick Proctor | Director, Adelphi Access: Nick has a PhD in Pharmacy and jointly leads a practice of talented consultants and analysts who specialise in developing insight-led commercial strategy for healthcare clients. He provided an opening talk about “careers in consulting” and gave us his tips to start a career in consulting after a PhD. His main advice emphasised the importance of “knowing your audience”: consulting is all about communication and understanding your client’s specific needs and as such, you are expected to demonstrate excellent communication and listening skills.
Andrew Yates| Director, Blossom Medical Consulting: Andy is a qualified pharmacist with a PhD in medical chemistry. He has developed broad scientific, analytical and commercial skills to form a strong understanding of the drivers and eroders of risk and value within the Healthcare sector. He gave us a talk entitled “from bench to business” in which he exposed his own professional career path that led him to work in business development and licensing for Astra Zanaca before founding his own company, Kancerbis, based on the findings of his PhD obtained 13 years ago. Andy believes that a PhD degree prepares one to understand and apply new thinking for the rest of one’s professional life. Lastly, he highlighted the importance of not fearing new opportunities: “if you tick all the boxes for the job specification then you are probably applying for the wrong job!”
Rupert Wingate-Saul| Investment Director, AXM VC: Rupert is an Investment Manager for the Digital & creative Fund. AXM Venture Capital manages the North West Fund for Digital and Creative. Rupert offered his perspective on the current biological industry landscape and explained to us how venture capitalist can intervene to positively impact on the growth of start-ups in the return of equity (see graph below). Despite representing a risky investment, the biotech sector has attracted a considerable amount of funding in the North West Region, including the North West Fund for Biomedical (£30 million), Alderley Park Ventures managed by Biocity (£5 million) and the Greater Manchester and Cheschire Life Sciences Fund (expected to reach £45 million). Rupert also outlined the three things VCs look after when investing in a new company: a strong management team, value proposition with high growth potential and a potential identified exit.
Figure 2: Venture Capital explained in one graph by Rupert Wingate-Saul, Investment Director at AXM VC.
The rest of the day consisted of various activities which took place simultaneously:-
Competitor Mentoring Sessions
Over the course of the day, each competing team received three individualised mentoring sessions, which enabled competitors to sharpen their business acumen and improve their pitches with one-on-one advice from experienced guest mentors from PWC, Adelphi, Remap Consulting and Blossom Medical. Teams spent each hour-long mentoring session discussing and evaluating the consultancy case in depth each, all the while motivated by the fact that they were competing for CASH PRIZES! More importantly, this was a wonderful opportunity for them to rehearse their pitches, and receive constructive feedback directly from business professionals whilst also marketing themselves for a potential job (4 competitors secured their next job after last year’s competition!).
A series of complimentary workshops were open to the public while competing teams were busy preparing pitches with their mentors. The first workshop entitled “From Academia to Industry: CV clinic" was led by Dr Nick Proctor from Adelphi, Dr. Andrew Yates from Blossom Medical Consulting, Mr. Rupert Wingate-Saul from AXM Venture Capital and Dr. Nigel Burns from the University of Manchester who was also the consultant and founder of “Sweet Spot Therapeutics Consulting Ltd.” together with HR representatives from the Biohub at Alderley Park. This benefited students interested in starting a career in healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry as they received the chance to ask specific questions pertaining to their own CVs.
The second workshop, entitled "Getting a role in management consulting: solving the case interview", was led by two experienced consultants from PwC UK, Abraham Mohammed and Cong Peng, together with Syed Ahmed, the chair of the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology consulting case club. They offered guidance and useful tips to those interested in breaking into a career in management consulting.
The final workshop, entitled "The new era of health economics", was led by Graham Foxon, Founder and director at Remap consulting. Graham gave us a broad overview of the main health economics principles and explained how this fairly new discipline can be used to optimise the allocation of scarce NHS resources.
Overall, these workshops were well-received by those who dropped in and provided a great opportunity to broaden participants’ career horizons through networking with experienced professionals from a range of both biotech and business fields.
Main Event: The Competition
During the second half of the day, following intense discussion, planning and preparation; it was time for the teams to present their final proposals in front of Dr. Nick Proctor, Dr. Andrew Yates and Mr. Rupert Wingate-Saul, who were acting as Daraga INC’s Executive Board. The audience was fortunate enough to have eight keen, smartly-dressed and uniquely named teams present their pitches in Lecture Theatre A of University Place: Synapse, Biodynamic, Initech, JCA, TUoS, Transatlantic, Beehive and Nova Solutions. Each team confidently and thoroughly outlined which business strategy the board should choose and why, presented analytics and referred to Daraga’s key criteria. Each team delivered very impressive presentations, which differed in terms of communication style, choice of strategic plan and their justifications. BUT as we all know…there can only be one winner!
Following much deliberation between the three judges, it was decided that the first place prize of £1,000 sponsored by Adelphi went to Biodynamic Consulting consisting of Iwan Roberts (Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, School of Biological Sciences), Alijona Kolmogorova (Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, School of Biological Sciences), Cian Vyas (Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, School of Biological Sciences) and Jack Hart (Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, School of Biological Sciences).
Figure 3: The winning team posing with our judges ( From left to right: Rupert Wingate-Saul, Andy Yates, Iwan Roberts, Alijona Kolmogorova, Jack Hart, Cian Vyas and Nick Proctor).
The runner-up prize of £300 sponsored by the University of Liverpool went to Synapse Consulting consisting of Kathryn McGurk (Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, School of Medical Sciences), James Quinn (Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, Brain, School of Biological Sciences) and Sakis Paliouras (Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, Cancer research UK Manchester Institute); in fact, Ms. McGurk impressed the judges so much that they also awarded her the £100 Best Speaker prize!
Figure 4: The runner-up team posing with our judges ( From left to right: Sakis Paliouras, Rupert Wingate-Saul, Andy Yates, Kathryn McGurk, James Quinn and Nick Proctor).
After a long, but insightful and stimulating day, all attendees and competitors retired to the foyer of University Place for some well-deserved refreshments and nibbles during the closing reception where students socialised with one another and networked with the visiting professionals for the last hour of the event.
Overall the event was a resounding success! The NBI committee was really glad to see that their collaborative efforts were worthwhile and that each attendee could benefit from the event either by competing or by attending our professional workshops.
Despite the hurdles the committee faced and having to juggle the event with other work and research commitments, all of the hard work, late-night planning and multiple meetings paid off! If you missed the Consulting Case Competition this year, fear not because it will definitely continue next year in 2018!
Oh and did you know that NBI is recruiting?
The committee is looking for:-
Co-chair: This role is for anyone with a BIG vision and leadership. As a co-chair, you direct the NBI team, propose new event ideas and coordinate the committee to ensure the delivery of well-organised, high-quality professional events. You also liaise with our external partners (Manchester Enterprise Centre, Alderley Park Biohub, UMIP, Adelphi) and reach out to additional companies and/or organisations to promote NBI activities and expand our presence among the graduate community and local industry leaders.
Advertisement campaign manager: If you are creative and passionate about communication and sales, then bring your personal touch to the NBI team. This role is aimed toward increasing awareness of NBI activities across Northern universities and managing regional advertisement campaigns!
Social media lead: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have no secret for you and you are always seeking out interesting contents that could benefit the student community. As a social media lead, you will relay the content produced by the advertisement campaign manager on our different social media platforms. You will also share some other relevant content related to career and professional development, skills development, PhD blues, etc… You will also explore new strategies to increase our number of followers.
Business Development Lead & Treasury If you are business-minded and have a knack for networking, this role will allow you to use your skills to expand the NBI model to other universities across the North West and reach out to new corporate sponsors! You will also take care of the Student Union and Business accounts of the NBI.
Please visit www.nwbiotech.co.uk to learn more or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event was made possible by Adelphi Group, Alderley Park Biohub, the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool, and PwC UK.