The Life Sciences Entrepreneurship Development Program is the result of an initiative of Montréal InVivo, the life sciences and health technologies (LSHT) cluster of the Montreal metropolitan area. Being mandated to support companies and SMEs active in LSHT to expand in the region, Montréal InVivo asked them about their employees’ skills and expertise.
“Many companies, in particular SMEs, mentioned that the staff they recruit is very strong technically and scientifically, but often lacked knowledge and expertise in business and management, important skills for an employee in an SME to have,” sais Frank Béraud, CEO of Montréal InVivo.
Once the need was investigated, a committee was formed to determine who the best partners would be to build an ongoing training program that would allow students and young professionals in life sciences to develop their entrepreneurial expertise. This is how a partnership was created between the Faculty of Pharmacy at Université de Montréal, Concordia University’s John Molson Executive Centre (part of the John Molson School of Business), and Montréal InVivo. These first two organizations each bring complementary expertise, namely the scientific and drug development component by the Faculty of Pharmacy at Université de Montréal and the management and business component by Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business. Montréal InVivo brings a program of experts with extensive experience specific to life sciences. Together, they have built an immersive training program that meets the needs of entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in the life sciences field, of professionals in the community and those of students enrolled in life sciences programs keen on developing their business skills.
“At Montréal InVivo, building companies is part of our strategic priorities. To do this, it is essential to develop the skills of the professionals who work in those companies. Thanks to this type of program, we feel that companies are going to have qualified staff that is even more effective in an SME environment and, as a result, they will be able to achieve their objectives more easily,” mentioned Frank Béraud, CEO of Montréal InVivo.
“The mandate of the Life Sciences Entrepreneurship Development Program has therefore been to lead professionals and students in life sciences beyond research and towards less familiar territory, which is the development and applications of discoveries,” explained Denis DeBlois, professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy at Université de Montréal.
The program entails 10 intensive 2- to 3-day sessions per month that are grouped together into themes of which the progression follows a logical sequence. They include lectures, discussion panels, simulations as well as entrepreneurs’ testimonials. In the first sessions, participants are invited to think about a project that they could potentially develop and bring to market: “We guide them to start with the end in mind. We want them to have an idea of where they want to end up and we support them throughout this thought process,” pointed out Denis DeBlois.
Participants are thus informed of the issues they could encounter in the process of bringing such a project to market. They have the opportunity to learn about the failures and the successes of experts in life sciences. Professors have a modern and dynamic vision of their role.
“We are here so the participants in the program learn by experimenting. The modules and sessions are designed to allow atudents to experience the project-building process. And what better way than having your own project!” mentioned Xavier-Henri Hervé, Director of the District 3 Innovation Centre.
Throughout the learning sessions, participants work in teams on the project developed at the beginning of the program. They immediately apply what the professors teach them and work together, helping each other during this process. The Life Sciences Entrepreneurship Development Program therefore allows students and professionals from the community to reflect on their motivations and on the commitment that entrepreneurship involves. One of the greatest benefits that this program brings to the participants is that it validates their potential and their abilities in the business world. Many will finish these sessions with the certainty that they are made for life sciences entrepreneurship.
“We need to transform researchers into people that want to go to the world and take the research out of the lab. It’s those people that want to impact the world. This whole program is designed for people who care to change the world with their knowledge,” emphasized the Director of District 3.