Last week I attended the Bench to Boardroom event organised by OneNucleus at the Newmarket Racecourse. Under the slogan discover-learn-connect, there were opportunities during the day to explore these themes. We certainly learnt a lot from Prof Sir Christopher Evans, whose keynote speech (the first of the day) ’From bench to billions’ inspired and incited debate, something I have now learnt to expect from him. Described by many as the founding father of the Cambridge biotech cluster, he talked about many things (we’ll be publishing the interview I had with him within the next couple of weeks so keep an eye on the homepage), among them what makes a business successful. The essential ingredients in his view are: a good product, excellent people, an exciting business plan, money (plenty of it!), hard work and luck. It doesn’t look like rocket science but I guess the trick is getting all the elements of the equation right.

Fisher Scientific run a "fast pipette" competition at Bench to Boardroom

There was a also an opportunity to discover that my pipetting skills are still up to scratch when I came second (a position I shared with the gentleman in the picture) in the Fisher pipette competition that Fisher Scientific were running from their stand on the exhibition floor. The challenge was to fill six tubes of different volumes with different amounts of liquid, i.e. two 50ml tubes required 15ml each, two 15ml tubes required 5ml each, etc. I managed to do it in 1 minute 29 and you can just about manage to make out the text in the leader board shown in the picture (in case someone wants proof!), which is quite a feat if we take into consideration that I haven’t done any real chemistry since 2004. Also, in my defence (I should have been first really, after all I was representing the RSC plus there was a bottle of bubbly for the winner), when I did the test I had just arrived and my hands were freezing. In any case, I’m revelling in my success and my prize of Smarties!

The second keynote speaker was Alison Campbell, who told us: ‘There are two Is in innovation’, the second one being for investment, which she referred to as ‘intelligent capital’. Interestingly, she also emphasised the importance of choosing the right people to set up business with. ‘You need a partner, but the right one’, she said, and you have to value the time your partner invests, after all ‘the greatest type of investment is investment of their time’.

There were opportunities to  network during the workshops that were run throughout the day (Deloitte looked at the patent box and Global Regulatory Services covered the NHS, to name just a couple) or on the exhibition floor, which was covered with a range of suppliers, including equipment suppliers, providers of technical services, etc.

To finish it all we were treated to a live show by Dr Hal, who brought chemistry to life with experiments like the exploding ostrich egg, manufacturing liquid oxygen and chemiluminescence. A good time was had by all!

Bibiana Campos Seijo

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