My trip to Washington DC started with me waking up in disbelief one morning noticing that my flight time was within 10 hours. The GapSummit conference was held in between the end of lectures and exam period. Therefore, the thought of being halfway around the world before having exams was very unreal and stressful. However, it turns out the lesson I got out of this trip was more valuable and memorable than the course content crammed just for my exams.
GapSummit is Global Biotech Revolution’s conference held every year where 100 young leaders (postgrads, undergrads, PhDs, entrepreneurs, innovators) from more than 40 countries are selected to gather and engage with world-class speakers and leaders in the life sciences industry to discuss challenges and gaps in Bioeconomy, Precision Medicine and Diagnostics, Sustainability, Beyond Education: Success in the 21st century, Life Science Industry, Research and Innovation, Science Policy and Regulation, and Technology. This year, it was my absolute honour to attend this “biotech fiesta” at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Hearing from world-class speakers and leaders, the messages just seems to become ten times more powerful and reassuring. Nevertheless, what affected me personally was the networking sessions I spent with the leaders from across the world and the Idea Challenge. I really appreciated every moment spent with biotech enthusiasts. How often do you have the chance to spend time with people from more than forty countries and different cultural backgrounds and talk about biotechnology!? Here are just some points I learned for young budding scientists who are problem solvers and innovators.
It is important to be able to convey your ideas to people who are not in your field and help them understand your idea. Learning to think dynamically, and to think from others’ perspective can assist people from different fields come to a better understanding of each other and work together to solve bigger problems. Innovation is not a one person job in this century; it requires people in all different fields to collaborate together to create something great.
The conference attracted young innovators and some of the most successful leaders of today from over 40 countries. I had some of the most intriguing conversations I’ve ever had with people from all over the world, and met the most awesome people. The interesting thing is we all came the realisation of the importance of bringing the ideas we learned in this brief meeting back to our countries and to reality. Every country has their own problems to solve, but there are also global problems we need to deal with. With globalisation being inevitable, decentralised innovation is not enough to satisfy the thirst for global creativity and advancement. The new generation of global innovation demands a network of different expertise, vision, and culture in order to collaborate and achieve peak performance.
I never thought I was a business orientated person nor an “entrepreneur”. However, I always aspired to put my biotechnology degree to good use and invent or innovate. Being a young researcher I have been taught to think or judge critically before doing anything. However, I’ve come to realize that being too critical and overthinking everything can hold one back as well. This year, with a few little cash prizes as bait, I entered two business idea challenges. I shouted the two loudest “What?!”s in my life this year, embarrassing myself in front of auditoriums full of people when I received the Velocity Idea Challenge Chiasma Prize for best bioscience business idea and the first place in the Idea Challenge/Pitching competition at GapSummit 2017. Despite the win, the GapSummit Idea Challenge is still the most daunting and scary experience I have ever done (besides kayaking down a waterfall). This was my first time presenting in front of more than 100 professionals. Being able to come first in this competition was absolutely amazing, but also an incredibly humbling experience. I know I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go with public speaking, but I did allow myself to “just do it”.
I gave myself a chance by taking part in these competitions and conferences to learn and to connect with fellow innovators and inventors, despite the conference being just before my exams. The prizes from the challenges are not just the cash itself but the experience and the people I met. You never know what you will gain from opportunities that life presents, but I can guarantee you will have an awesome time simply trying and learning along the way.
So here, I challenge fellow young, budding students, scientists and innovators: think big with your research and connect with one another. Research, science, engineering and business need to coexist and come together to function and take action. Take whatever opportunities come your way, such as international conferences like GapSummit, and network with speakers, fellow researchers, and professionals. You may be able to obtain a new start-up idea, research inspiration or new mentor/teammate that leads you to your next professional journey.