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IECT Report

Journey from a postdoc to innovator

By Crina Samarghitean MD, MSc, PhD,

pictures by Johannes Felder

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Entrepreneurial aspirations in Cambridge ecosystem
In April 2016 I started my postdoc at University of Cambridge in a project which aims to develop bioinformatics tools for primary immunodeficiencies in order to find new genes and new therapies using genomics data. In my spare time I was also an Event Officer of EPOC (Entrepreneurial Postdoc Society of Cambridge) - a dynamic organization which aims to bring the gap between academia and industry and encourage postdocs to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions. I organized with a team of enthusiastic postdocs monthly events for postdocs,
business plan competition in collaboration with Cambridge Enterprise and different talks and workshops delivered by successful local entrepreneurs. As part of EPOC, I also get involved in courses and workshops organized by Cambridge Judge Business School, Centre for Entrepreneurial learning such as, Accelerate
Cambridge, EntrepriseWise, Ignite, Venture Creation Weekend. All these events inspired me to be more entrepreneurial and find new opportunities to commercialize my research idea developed during my PhD time
in Finland.

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From ideas to reality
During 16-26 August 2017, after a rigorous selection process from the organizing committee of I.E.C.T. Hermann Hauser Summer School on Entrepreneurship and thanks to a travel grant from OPdA andpostdocs2innovators (p2i) programme, I participated to I.E.C.T. Hermann Hauser Summer School onEntrepreneurship. The Summer School focuses on the development of winning actions plans for innovative ideas. It addresses itself to academics, who want to commercialize or transfer their high scientific ideas and have experience in the fields of technology, science, advanced engineering, life science, physics, mathematics, IT or AI as well as to early-stage start-ups with science and technology projects.

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The programme comprised keynotes and practical teaching sessions on innovation, entrepreneurial vision (leadership), market research, business models, building a great team, finance, selling your idea and pitching.
Besides these we participated in interactive workshops and tailored support through professional coaching and expert clinics. The contributors were experienced trainers, entrepreneurs and innovators from Cambridge and
Austria, such as Hermann Hauser, Prof Andy Hooper, Prof Shailendra Vyakarnam, David Gee, Markus Malek, Gerald Hörhan, Cristoph Richer, Rudolf Ball. We received great support from Cambridge mentors such as Yupar Myint, Shailendra Vyakarnam, Miranda Weston-Smith, who perfected their methodology of coaching
start-ups over more than 10 years in the Cambridge Network – world leading technology cluster. We also had mentors from Austria, such as Astrid Kaltenböck, Ulrich Trog, Stefan Engl who had a broad experience in mentoring start-ups in Austria over a long period of time.

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Team work, mentors and facilitators
The I.E.C.T. Hermann Hauser Summer School on Entrepreneurship provided a forum where we could learn from the experienced entrepreneurs, corporate innovators and other postdocs and young entrepreneurs. It was a great opportunity to develop our business skills and to apply these skills in a safe environment. For example, my group facilitated by Benjamin Stainer and mentored by Astrid Kaltenbock was more focused in life science startups. We had great discussions during the mentoring sessions and coffee breaks, so we could shape our business idea and had a clear vision and mission for our startups. We had the opportunity to pitch our business idea in the poster session and also in front of investors from Tyrol. Gernot Grabner from our group won one of
the best 3 pitches competition and had the chance to pitch his business idea also in Technology Symposium in European Forum Alpbach. He is also one of the winners of a ticket to Berlin to pitch in Falling Walls Venture, The International Conference in Future Breakthroughs in Science and Society.

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Final thoughts
Participating in I.E.C.T. Herman Hauser Summer School on Entrepreneurship, I could increase my business and soft skills and be more confident to pursue my entrepreneurial journey inspired by the examples of renowned and successful entrepreneurs from Cambridge and beyond. Beside this I also established fruitful collaborations with postdocs from Austria, Germany and other young entrepreneurs all over the world. After the Summer School ended I visited some of the Cambridge mentors met in Austria and we are planning now to organize
some new EPOC events with them in 2018 . I gratefully acknowledge the support received from EPOC, OPdA, p2i and I.E.C.T. Hermann Hauser Summer School and strongly encourage other postdocs to broaden their horizons and pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions. You never know where it can get you until you try. You
might be the next success story of a postdoc turned successful entrepreneur and be part of your local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

We learned a lot not only from inspiring mentors, keynote speakers and successful entrepreneurs but also from innovative postdocs. The connection started in the IECT Hermann Hauser Summer School on Entrepreneurship was just the beginning of successful collaborations between postdocs in different
universities.

For more information about the I.E.C.T Hermann Hauser Summer School on entrepreneurship:
http://www.iect.at/summer-school-en/
Get in touch: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/crinasamarghitean
https://twitter.com/csamarghitean
https://www.epoc.group.cam.ac.uk

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