One Nucleus Input to the Industrial Strategy

OPEN LETTER

Dear One Nucleus members and esteemed readers

As many of you will know, the British Government launched a Green Paper for wide consultation regarding its future Industrial Strategy.

One Nucleus is delighted that at least 3 of the 10 pillars of the draft strategy reference sectors, the importance of place and clusters. With this in mind, I decided that it was important for One Nucleus to input to the draft strategy.

Below you will see my letter/response to the Government in this regard. It is written after lengthy discussions with members, key stakeholders, regional and national Government and others. I do hope you feel it is appropriate and reflects the needs and interests of our much treasured One Nucleus membership.

Letter to BEIS (dated 3 April 2017)

As Chief Executive of One Nucleus and one of the Prime Minister’s Business Ambassador’s for Life Sciences, I am delighted to send you the One Nucleus input to the Industrial Strategy.

One Nucleus is the largest membership organisation for the life science and healthcare sector in Europe with over 470 organisations as members. Full details are at Annex A below.

This response is formed of three parts:

  • Firstly, the role of Regions and Cities
  • Secondly, what One Nucleus believes the UK life science and healthcare sector needs from the Industrial Strategy and
  • Thirdly, what we believe the specific needs of the life science and healthcare sector across the Cambridge/London corridor are now and into the future (80% of our membership is based in this area).

I am intentionally not including a significant raft of data about the strengths of the UK life science and healthcare sector or the axis of Cambridge/London as these are very well known to HM Government. However, for ease of reference and background I attach:

  • a brief summary of the Cambridge ‘cluster’ – Bidwells (March 2016) (via e-mail)
  • a short overview of the UK sector compiled by UKTI (now DiT) that I use as core briefing in my Business Ambassador role (via e-mail)
  • a report compiled by the Growth Commission for the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium – LSCC (July 2016) plus a range of life sciences specific reports to which One Nucleus has contributed for the LSCC (all links below):

http://www.lsccgrowthcommission.org.uk/?p=812
http://lscc.co/sectors-2/life-sciences/

The One Nucleus response is written after consultation with Cabinet Office and BEIS during recent meetings I attended. The feedback from BEIS team members was clear – to focus a response on tangible actions that can be taken. I have therefore adopted that approach but am very happy to discuss any or all of the content of this submission in more detail with HM Government.

The Role of Regions and Cities

It is heartening to see the Prime Minister’s significant emphasis on ‘place’ in relation to the Industrial Strategy and her plans for the UK’s growth. As an organisation that has most of its members in a ‘region’ ie: the Cambridge/London corridor, One Nucleus believes that clusters/regions play a pivotal role in the economic development of and commercial advantage for the UK.

That said, I would also like to emphasis the role cities play in enabling growth. The establishment of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s) and City Deals are very welcome. More needs to be done though. I would suggest localisation of a proportion of innovation funding to cities to enable them to more proactively plan and support business growth across life sciences and other sectors.

Cities are better placed than central government to respond to locally specific market failures – drawing on close relationships with local business leaders and local institutions, having a better understanding of the unique environment local firms operate in, and an enhanced insight into where future opportunities may align.

Devolving, or ‘localising’, a proportion of existing innovation funding to provide cities with a flexible innovation pot would enable them to support greater coordination within and across sectors and cities, and enable the business leadership required to meet the growth ambitions set out in the industrial strategy. By ‘innovation funding’ – One Nucleus means early stage R &D and importantly also broader business-based innovation/process innovation/market innovation for scientific/healthcare products.

What does the UK sector need from the opportunity afforded by the Industrial Strategy:

  1. Patient capital and funding:
  • Patient capital – must play a pivotal role – supporting the key themes of the (East of England) Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) as well as the emerging fields of eg: Artificial Intelligence; robotics; digital health; the Internet of Things. The recent collaboration between Syncona and the Wellcome Trust is an excellent blueprint for what can be achieved
  • Funding: The BioMedical Catalyst Fund has worked very well – continuation of it/enhancement of EIS to encourage investment/an even more robust R & D tax credit system (particularly in light of BREXIT)/even more competitive levels of corporation tax
  • HM Treasury to create a model to fill potential gaps with the demise of Horizon 2020 – HM Government has announced it will safeguard this funding but details are yet to be provided
  • Broad reform of EIS and VCT reliefs to lock in cash for longer in return for enhanced tax reliefs to encourage enforced patient capital. It is our view that the tax system is the key way for universal behaviour change to be effected. In addition, if the scale threshold (the point at which EIS relief is lost) were increased significantly, it could allow a greater flow of new funds into EIS protected scale-ups. We also ask the Industrial Strategy to consider reliefs for small (innovative) businesses, which will support growth in new R & D sectors and regenerate geographies in the UK in need of growth
  • Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund – market it well and in a timely fashion
  • Support for Scale-up companies: a tailored package of support/incentives for companies that are seeking to remain and grow in the UK – rather than exit-sale or merger. This includes consideration of diversity of funding – helping SME’s to navigate late stage development and commercialise products without ‘selling out’ to big pharma
  • Government funding to support academic GMP manufacturing and cell processing capacity
  • Greater involvement of charities/patient groups in the creation of innovation funds (eg: a comparator for the Citizens Innovation Fund that is available in France)
  1. People and Skills
  • Creation of a UK BioPharma Academy – with graduate entry, external mentoring and coaching, growing the next generation of scientists and C level talent. One Nucleus would suggest this is an academy that industry is intensely involved in/supports in terms of funding and training resource
  • Creation of a fast-track life sciences and healthcare visa scheme
  • Support local institutions to maximise local strengths – and assess current networks and organisations on the basis of proven ability and reputation before creating new ones – against a clear set of criteria
  • Establish a ‘National Recruitment Fund’ to grow the UK’s life sciences talent pool by supporting the attraction and retention of overseas and home-grown scientific and entrepreneurial talent
  1. Regulation and Pricing/NHS
  • Reinforcement of the Accelerated Access Scheme (AAS) to create new ways of addressing regulatory issues and encouraging the faster uptake of innovation by the NHS. The Innovation and Technology Tariff is a case in point – this needs to be truly capitalised upon for maximum patient benefit. Vitally getting the AAS to work smoothly and effectively should help keep the UK at the forefront of getting new, innovative drugs to patients
  • The Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS): this is an excellent mechanism from the MHRA/NICE and needs to be taken further. We suggest some products should qualify for EAMS sooner (perhaps in specialist clinical centres) so real outcomes and commercial data can be garnered for NICE assessment. Consideration to be given to granting EAMS on well conducted exploratory studies in areas of high unmet medical need and run in parallel with confirmatory clinical studies – with patients directed to the latter in the first instance. This would ‘telescope down’ the process of regulatory approval, NICE decision making and NHS adoption. Paying SME’s a nominal price for their product while under EAMS would also help bridge the funding gap for regulatory development
  • Better access to clinical networks
  • Establish a ‘UK Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI)’ to ensure that UK companies and researchers do not lose out on opportunities to establish pre-competitive collaborations, which aim to speed up the development of better and safer medicines for patients
  1. New Technologies
  • Encourage the development and convergence of technologies
  • A UK strategy for digital health – with the NHS better expressing what it’s needs are and assessments done to assess the market for mobile applications for health monitoring and companies and the NHS working more closely together
  1. Department for International Trade (DiT)
  • A clearly defined and well-resourced international trade and investment offer which recognises the importance of supporting SME’s, harnesses the abilities of our commercial teams in our overseas Embassies and Consulates for company benefit and markets opportunities for UK companies in a timely fashion eg: far better notice of upcoming missions/conferences required
  • Recognition by the Department for International Trade (DiT) of the importance of SME’s both in biotechnology and medical technology (including devices and diagnostics). Business Plans from the Life Sciences Organisation (LSO) in DiT I have seen in the last several years have been very thin on actual practical support for SME’s in these areas. I am fully supportive of the ABHI (Association of British Healthcare Industries) response to the Industrial Strategy which I have been asked to contribute to, and have done so, by ABHI

What are the needs of the life science and healthcare sector across the Cambridge/London region:

Background

Life Sciences is thriving in this ‘region’ with exciting growth, relocations, company formations (and exits), academia-industry strategic collaborations and a strongly entwined ecosystem. 25% of the UK total of biotechnology companies and 38% of all primary UK R & D companies developing novel therapeutics or diagnostics are in this region.

The innovation strength of this cluster is of national and international importance and a reflection of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists locally where seasoned life science entrepreneurs interact seamlessly with more recent science graduates and PhD’s with high aspirations and appetites to learn.

AstraZeneca locating its global headquarters in Cambridge, next to the world renowned Addenbrooke’s and MRC LMB is no coincidence: a testament to the strength of the science being developed in and around the City and also the deeply collaborative spirit.

In London of course we have the ‘jewel in the crown’ of scientific endeavour which is the Crick Institute – globally appreciated for what it is seeking to achieve in developing better drugs and outcomes for patients through collaboration and partnership.

Cambridge Points to Make:

Whilst Cambridge is experiencing faster growth currently than China (at 7%), the city and its environment has challenges that the Industrial Strategy could help address.

One Nucleus welcomed HM Government’s recent commissioning of a Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) for life sciences for the East of England. It is our understanding that the findings of the audits are pivotal to Government decision making with regard to investment policy. I firmly believe that the audit will showcase the world class excellence of the East of England in life sciences – with a particular emphasis on:

  1. Personalised medicine (drug discovery, development and diagnostics)
  2. Regenerative medicine (cell & gene therapies)
  3. Genomics
  4. Med tech
  5. Food, health and microbiome

Our recommendations:

  • The need for a Master Plan for the East of England to manage its growth in a way that benefits all locally and importantly (as an engine for the UK) spreads that success across the UK. Cambridge is a city based on ideas and is a ‘safe’ place to do ‘risky’ things – it’s important for Cambridge to continue to do it’s amazing science and R & D and for the surrounding areas to be further developed around it which have the skills to support that work eg: manufacturing in Harlow; and recognition of the expertise of complimentary life sciences eg: food and the microbiome in Norwich. I regularly discuss the East of England region for life sciences with local and national Government and continue to reinforce the point that the incredible life sciences cluster that is Massachusetts is not just about Boston – it’s about what the whole geography brings to the table. Cambridge and the region needs to think like that and plan for 2020 and beyond with that in mind – with investment in land opportunities eg: along the A11 to Norwich and the A14 to Bury St Edmunds
  • Retention of the two major cornerstone organisations: AstraZeneca and GSK
  • Infrastructure: it is vital that traffic congestion into the city centre is reduced, that there are strong transport networks between key locations across the East of England so that companies can move their teams easily in and out of the city and around the circumference plus north (to Norwich) and South (to Stevenage) and development in outlying (and important) areas of:
  • Affordable housing: for all levels of staff in organisations.
  • Funding: the City Deal was good but £500 million is a small amount given what needs to be done
  • Better planning: Councils are addressing planning needs but more could be done to release land for development more quickly to create more and better practical space, better shared facilities
  • Support for start-ups is strong in Cambridge and the region with a vibrant biotech centre and centres of excellence across the area, with entrepreneurs, investors and a very strong mentoring/coaching community. But there is a need to support companies to scale-up
  • Promotion of Cambridge internationally – a far better marketing machine is needed and a far better explanation of the impact Cambridge has both on the UK and overseas. The Cambridge Phenomenon books are exemplars but a Cambridge Promotion Agency is needed if the area is to continue to compete on a global stage and continue to win high quality foreign direct investment
  • A robust review of the creation/building/growth of incubator/lab space available in the ‘region’. Many reviews have been compiled about what is available but someone needs to take charge of overseeing what is going up where with a ‘helicopter view’ – an Incubator Tsar!
  • Create an even better Cambridge Science Centre to encourage science education
  • Better wireless connectivity across the whole region
  • Have Cambridge as a future City of Culture and create an International Visitors Centre – a one stop shop for tourists, investors, traders, students

London Points to Make:

The life science and healthcare sector alone in London generates over £21 billion GVA in London and the Greater South East. It is very important to harness the strength of London’s research base and support research and business collaboration nationally, across the EU and globally.

It will be critical for Government to continue to (at least) maintain existing levels of research spending in London and the Greater South East, including the level of research funding received from the EU, post 2020. It should also be remembered that there is clear evidence that the benefits of R&D spending are felt throughout the UK economy and not just in the region in which it occurs.

Our recommendations are:

  • the importance of better housing supply particularly in terms of London and the Wider South East. Median London house prices in 2016 were (for example) 14 times median London earnings, compared to four times in 1997, and this poses a significant risk to London – reducing ability to attract talented people, particularly in lower paying (but high value-generating fields such as creative industries or scientific research
  • Stronger access to finance – this remains a challenge for many businesses in London. Research by TheCityUK found that the UK has been less strong in equity financing than the US for a long time: for example, banks drive only 19% of external long-term financing in the US, compared with over 80% in the UK. [1] London ranks behind California and New York on the availability of mid-level growth capital[2], with these two hubs supported by a strong, risk-tolerant investor culture
  • Investment in infrastructure – to support regional growth is responsive to the specialisations and comparative advantages of regions. This includes London, where for example Crossrail 2 is essential to London’s growth as it will underwrite London’s productive central core
  • Deployment of research and proof of concept funding to tackle UK city-based challenges across MedTech and digital health applications (for example), using London and UK cities as a test bed
  • Trial, in collaboration with other UK cities, new approaches to supporting business to business innovation – linking innovating SMEs to corporate R&D need, strengthening innovation and collaboration across national supply chains
  • Create a science and technology inter-institutional collaboration fund across London and the Greater South East, which would be open to UK wide research and business partners
  • Improve the linkages and broker relationships between higher education infrastructure/equipment and expertise and business innovation need (including mechanisms to better link up foreign direct investment and domestic business growth requirements with the existing institutional offer)
  • Strengthen the entrepreneurial drive across London universities to inspire students, celebrate risk taking and failure, (for example, through drawing on the alumni base to advise and support existing student cohorts) and support a more commercial mind set across academia

My comments in relation to London are the result of consultation with the Greater London Authority (GLA) and London & Partners and the life sciences elements for London appear as part of their submission on the Industrial Strategy.

Harriet Fear
Chief Executive One Nucleus and UK Business Ambassador for the Prime Minister

[1] TheCityUK, 2013, Alternative Finance for SMEs and mid-market companies

[2] EY, 2015, Fintech – on the cutting edge, 2016; Pitchbook, Annual VC Funding Report.

Posted in November 2011 | Leave a comment

My Letter to you Dear Entrepreneur…..

Putting the c in Science – Commercialization, Community and Capital

by Sharon Vosmek

I am very much looking forward to my up and coming talk at the 2017 ON Helix conference. As an early stage investor, I especially enjoy opportunities to talk with and learn from life science innovators. You see, for me, science is quite personal.

My talk at the conference will focus on the three c’s of science: Commercialization, Community and Capital. This blog will give you a sample of what I look forward to discussing with the conference attendees. For me, these speaking opportunities keep me connected to innovation and markets – it is what I hear and learn, much more than what I have to say, that makes the travel and time worth every bit of it.

I recognize that you – dear entrepreneur – may not realize just how personal the decision to deploy capital can be for me, the early stage investor. Just as your entrepreneur’s passion connects you to your innovation, your customers’ needs, and your business, it is my passion that connects me to my investments and the innovations that each is driving to market.

My portfolio is made up of a combination of companies that make me feel like I am doing something meaningful with my money and contributing to something that has real value to society. This is especially true of my life science investments, many of which are seeking solutions for patients, doctors, and health care providers in previously underserved markets.

As an investor I have choices. I could invest in much safer things like public companies, real estate, or even shoes.  But my early stage, private company investing is personal. It is as much a statement of who I am as anything else I do.

Why should you the entrepreneur want to understand this? Because it is what makes us – you and I, dear entrepreneur – more alike than you might realize. And this alikeness, should you and I take the time to fully develop an understanding and appreciation of it, can be a powerful tool for your company and the opportunities you are pursuing.

We both want to change the world – for the better. We both want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And we both have a tolerance for the risk associated with these desires. These are all things that can create a solid foundation for our relationship – you as an entrepreneur and me as investor. And if we both commit to taking the time to listen to each other, before we commit to each other, these bonds can sustain us through the highs and lows of the startup journey. In my experience, if this foundation is strong, these aligned interests can even endure through the absolute failure of a business and carry us through together to your next innovation and my next investment.

Of equal importance is what makes us different. I have found that the most successful investor-entrepreneur relationships are also built on a clear understanding of what each can uniquely bring to the table. I chose you because of the unique opportunity that your innovation presents to me as it relates to my desire to change the world. I chose you because I believe in your innovation and I believe in you as the entrepreneur who will get it into the hands of the market. Equally, you, dear entrepreneur, should choose me for the opportunity I bring to your innovation.  Of course I bring the obvious capital. But if you choose me well, I can bring so much more.

I am surrounded by smart, experienced people who may just be your first or next customers, your trusted advisor, your next hire, your market analyst, your next investor. Once you learn how the innovation economy works, you will see that 6 degrees of separation is more like 2 or 3 in this slice of the economy and the possibilities of who I might be able to help you reach are limitless. This is my community and this is what I can bring to bear if, and only if, we have taken the time to listen to each other, articulate the full potential of your innovation in the market, and identify how together we can unleash the full power of this network.

You see, for life science entrepreneurs, it takes a unique combination of ability to commercialize, ability to engage a community, and an ability to raise capital that is aligned with your innovation.

As I said at the start of this post, I very much look forward to hearing the thoughts of the innovators at the ON Helix conference. I see the day as yet another opportunity for us to identify how we can together build greater understanding between entrepreneurs, investors, and markets so that the fruits of the lab can make it into the waiting hands of the patient.

Written by Sharon Vosmek, CEO, Astia

The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.

 

 

 

Posted in November 2011 | Leave a comment

Digital Health, the Embassy, Russia and the Future

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is a specialised government body with the responsibility for promoting UK trade across the world and attracting inward investment. DIT initiated the 1st International Digital Health Conference in Moscow, April 2017.

A strong UK delegation of medical experts made their way to Moscow to attend a digital health conference, organised jointly by DIT Russia office and Moscow State University on 20-21 April.

What proved to be a great success started two years ago from an idea to bring UK digital technologies to Russian medicine. The idea was taken forward and developed into a niche industry event which attracted more than 200 healthcare professionals. This was also the flagship event of the UK-Russia Year of Science and Education 2017. “Health science is an area where the UK and Russia are working closely together despite political disagreements”, said Jonathan Brenton, Minister-Counsellor Prosperity at the British Embassy in Moscow, during the opening ceremony.

At the conference experts described how a digital approach can make medicine more effective. Dr. Ilan Lieberman, Clinical Director for Integration at the University Hospital of South Manchester (UHSM), shared his plans for the launch of high-tech medical devices. For example, a glucometer that measures glucose levels through the skin, without injections, and a mini-DNA sequencer integrated in a smartphone. These and other devices, according to Dr. Lieberman, will go into production in the UK in about three months. There are also developments in Russia: for example, electrocardiograms (ECG) using a smartphone and an app.

Data from such personal devices, along with other information about the patient, should be stored digitally. Ideally, the data storage system should be standardised throughout the country, but, as Gary Leeming, Director of Health Informatics at Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network (GM AHSN), mentioned in his presentation, in Britain such a system is far from being standardised. “Five years ago, we started to create an integrated remote patient monitoring system. In the process it became clear that data on the treatment of patients is often disconnected, stored in different systems, while patients themselves are trying to remember what medical services they should receive in different situations. As a result, a project of a self-learning health system was born, involving the use of Datawell, a system of sharing information for use by clinicians, an innovative smart cities programme CityVerve and ground-breaking test beds such as the Salford Lung Studies.

In Russia, until recently, no unified system existed until the program for the implementation of the Unified Medical Information and Analytical System (UMIAS) was launched in 2011-2012. Despite the fact that the new system is not yet perfect, this is a big step forward.

If digital technologies are really capable of transforming health care in the same way as other spheres of our life, then what is needed for their full integration into medicine? Dr. Ilan Lieberman cited two different examples – Israel and the United States, where people participate in the financing of innovative projects through taxes and are generally ready to accept the risk for this. In Russia, there are a number of challenges, one of the biggest is that according to current legislation any medical assistance must be provided to the patient exclusively in person. To change the situation, a new law “on telemedicine” is being discussed in the State Duma (the lower House of Parliament), said Alexandra Orekhovych, lawyer at the Internet Initiatives Development Fund, who is also involved in the legislative process.

The problem of shortage of healthcare workers can also be solved by means of digital technologies, according to Brendan O’Brien, Consultant in Clinical Informatics of the Board of Health and Social Care of Northern Ireland. Historically, this part of the United Kingdom has a large number of hospitals but only 70,000 healthcare employees for a population of a 1.9 million. “Thanks to the introduction of the e-medicine strategy, we managed to provide the lion’s share of medical services remotely. There are already about 20 thousand online receptions per month, 90,000 prescriptions are being written out”, said Dr. O’Brien.

Liz Mear, Chief Executive of the Innovation Agency at Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast, also reported that the work of the 15 branches of the Network was aimed at reducing health care costs through digital technologies. At the moment there are already 345 different software solutions to serve the purpose. However, according to Liz, the digital maturity of medical institutions in the UK is not high.

The second day of the conference was fully devoted to m-health technologies. Conference participants noted several major problems that impede development of the market. 2016 was a tough year for the sector. Developers have continued to produce new medical applications so that the total number of applications in the world reached almost 260,000. In the meantime, users were not in a hurry to install them on their smartphones. In 2016, the number of downloads of medical applications increased by 7 percent, although in 2014 and 2015 the growth was more than 35 percent annually. The reason is that consumers have begun to lose interest in medical applications.

About one third of mobile medical applications are now not designed for patients at all. Young and healthy users of technical innovations use mobile applications to count steps, calories, kilograms or pulse during training. But this information is not critical for them. “Of those who start using trackers – to count the number of steps – in two years only half continue to do this. For various reasons, they do not see any further benefits from this, “said Oleg Medvedev, Chair of Department of Pharmacology at the Faculty of Fundamental Medicine at the Moscow State University.

Experts are confident that m-health needs to be integrated into the healthcare system in Russia, provided that applications are of a high standard of quality, reliability and effectiveness and focused on solving the patient’s problems, said Pavel Vorobyov, Director of the Higher School of Therapists. Of course, payment for mobile applications via general medical insurance would mean a revolution in the Russian healthcare. Without the criteria of quality, reliability and effectiveness of m-health with reference to the evidence base, this simply cannot be done.

“A fast integration of medical and IT technologies sometimes leads to the emergence of products on the market which are not adapted to specific clinical problems, while the regulation mechanisms of this market are still not mature enough. There has to be a sufficient evidence base for the safety and effectiveness of digital health technologies to be used in both prevention and treatment of various diseases”, said Sergei Boytsov, Chief Specialist of the Russian Ministry of Health in the field of medical prophylaxis, director of the State Research Centre for Preventive Medicine.

Another question: If a patient decides to download a medical application, what shall he or she focus on? Experts are unanimous: in this case, the rating of medical applications with recommendations for patients will help. “One of the problems in Russia is that we do not have a common list of medical mobile applications. We do not have their ranking from the point of view of the doctor and from the patient’s point of view, “said Oleg Medvedev. Now, if a patient goes online and tries to find something, he can make a lot of mistakes. There should be an independent system for comparing and selecting such applications.”

One more problem. “Nowadays the Russian developers of mobile applications and devices first create a new technology, and then ask doctors to find where it can be applied,” said Oleg Medvedev. The results of such implementation are mixed. Is not this the source of a large number of “junk” developments? “For example, for several decades, a large number of Russian engineers have endlessly developed stimulants for biologically active points, which had no scientific basis,” said Medvedev. They have made a lot of such devices. The result of this activity was zero – a huge loss of time and deceived patients.” “A few years ago I was invited to the contest in Skolkovo, Russia’s largest science park, where I could not approve any development at all, e.g. devices for electronic acupuncture,” recalled Pavel Vorobyov. “We need to start, at the development stage, from what medical problem should be solved with the help of a mobile application or device,” according to Medvedev. We need to include all stakeholders in the process of planning – doctors, patient representatives, psychologists, service providers. And immediately we need to think about the quantitative measurement of the results of the introduction of our technologies.” The criteria for evaluating m-health, based on the evidence base, would serve as benchmarks for developers and would help cut off “garbage” applications even during planning. “It is possible to clarify the requirements for m-health through running several pilot projects,” said Boris Zingerman, Head of the Information Technology Department at the Haematology Research Centre of the Russian Ministry of Health. “For example, you can conduct pilots for such chronic diseases as arterial hypertension, diabetes, asthma and evaluate the result.”

The launch of the conference was marked by a reception at the British Ambassador’s residence in Moscow, where DIT Director John Lindfield said that he believed that the event was the start of a long and fruitful collaboration between the UK and Russia and eventually become a key event in the industry.

Written by Ekaterina Zhuravleva, Trade Adviser, Healthcare & Life Sciences, DiT.

The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.

Posted in June 2017 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Uncovering Biological Computation

Biological computation is the information-processing that cells carry out to make the myriad of decisions required to grow and sustain life. Uncovering what this computation is, remains far from trivial – cells are infuriatingly complex, they are noisy, run multiple operations in parallel, and there’s a blurred line between what we might consider to be biological software and hardware. This motivates the need for interdisciplinary approaches to extract knowledge from data, and to formulate predictive, explanatory models of cellular decision-making that can be used in the future to guide experiments, and ultimately for the development of novel therapies in medicine.

The Biological Computation group at Microsoft Research focuses on developing theory, methods and software for understanding and programming information-processing in biology. Our research currently centres on three areas: Molecular Programming, Synthetic Biology and Stem Cell Biology. We tackle key questions in these fields through the development of mathematical models and domain-specific computational tools, first seeking to find the right level of abstraction to model the system under study, and second, by designing tools that allow us to extract knowledge from data that can be used to parametrise or constrain such models.

As one example, in collaboration with experimental researchers at both the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge, and the University of Padua, we are investigating the information-processing that governs growth and development. Together we are studying the pluripotent nature of embryonic stem cells. Pluripotency is the unique characteristic of these cells to differentiate into all cell types of the adult body – from skin cells, to gut cells, to blood cells, to brain cells. This potency marks them as a potentially invaluable tool for medicine. Even more remarkably perhaps, is the discovery that the pluripotent state can be induced from fate-specified cells using only a handful of factors, which could allow us to bypass the embryo altogether. This paints a picture of a sort-of stem cell utopia: imagine being able to generate patient-specific pools of cells for those suffering from heart disease, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, or even insulin-producing cells for those with diabetes?

While embryonic stem cells hold significant promise for cell therapies and regenerative medicine, we still lack a fundamental understanding of the molecular processes that determine how differentiation proceeds, and what directs an embryonic stem cell towards a specific lineage. ‘Reprogramming’ cells back to the naïve state is also poorly understood, it and remains an inefficient process. The goal of our interdisciplinary collaboration has been to derive the biological program governing installation and maintenance of the pluripotent state. To this end, we’ve borrowed techniques from the field of formal verification, which are traditionally used in computer science to verify the correctness of computer programs, or check for bugs in software. The aim here, however, is to verify that a potential biological program is consistent with what is known experimentally by translating experimental observations into formal specifications that must be satisfied by the model.

Models that simply explain what is already known are limited in their usefulness. Certainly, reconciling a large number of experimental results into a single model is a significant step, allowing one to capture the present state of understanding in the field, and even resolve counterintuitive results. However, if your model can be used to predict some as-yet untested behaviour, which is subsequently found to hold experimentally, then you gain confidence in this current explanation of biological function and have learned something new biologically to boot. Beyond this, an often-overlooked benefit of modelling is when your model fails to predict some untested behaviour accurately. Incorrect predictions can be extremely informative in that they expose a flaw in the prevailing understanding of the system, forcing you to reconsider the assumptions that you have made. Ultimately, the approach is iterative, and models will be refined as they are constrained against new experimental data – to paraphrase George Box*, no model will ever be perfect, but some models will be useful.

Following this approach, we have developed models of the information-processing at work at the transcriptional level in embryonic stem cells. First, by encoding previous experimental results as ‘program specifications’ we sought to capture an understanding of pluripotency that accounted for changes in gene expression due to changes in the cell’s environment, and as the result of molecular perturbations. Importantly, we could generate then predictions of untested behaviour, that were subsequently supported by experimental tests, underscoring the usefulness of this modelling approach. More recently, we have sought to apply this understanding to explain how the pluripotent state is established during ‘reprogramming’ of somatic cells to the naïve state, which has also allowed us to predict accurately how to accelerate and enhance the efficiency of this process.

Ultimately the tools that we are designing as a group, such as those we have applied to better understand stem cell decision-making, will be combined into a platform for programming biology. Such a platform will enable users to uncover the biological computation that governs cellular decision-making, and then to use this understanding to reprogram, design and engineer biological behaviour.

Sara-Jane Dunn will be giving a Keynote Address at ON Helix 2017. Come and find out more about the work Microsoft is doing in the life science sector. More information can be found here.

*A 20th Century British statistician

Written by, Sara-Jane Dunn, Scientist, Microsoft.

The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.

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Posted in May 2017 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Life Sciences Innovators Need to Build the Right Teams

Great innovation needs great leadership.

The late, great Steve Jobs said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” So, when it comes to spotting opportunities in the exciting cross-over fields of life sciences, technology, and consumer applications, the right leadership team is vital. Businesses may be set up with an original goal in mind, such as developing new tools for cancer screening. The potential applications for the technologies they innovate, however, could be far wider than the healthcare field.

Tarquin Bennett-Coles, Carmichael Fisher’s Principal Consultant in Life Sciences Practice, says the need for some members of leadership teams with broader skills and experience is now being widely recognised by companies in this cross-over space. The need for managerial agility in recognising skills gaps and plugging them with the right people is paramount for a successful business. “Original teams may well be very focused on the healthcare benefits of their potential projects and have extensive experience in that field,” he says. “Their skills may be highly specialised. “However, lucrative consumer applications could transform the future of a company. They could ensure its viability and its ability to carry out further research and development in important areas of life sciences.

“Failure to capitalise on these opportunities could have the opposite effect. Companies which fail to grasp them could be held back from performing important work. Leaders must be aware from the outset that there may be potential for the application of their technologies in different areas to those they initially target, and they must be open to the opportunities which arise. They must be open to changing direction. Then, people with the right kind of skills at every level must be brought in to develop these potentially lucrative consumer applications. As the project progresses, companies may need those with corporate skills or those experienced in the use of different technologies.”

Many of the consumer markets which may use applications may be radically different to the field of life sciences. “Leadership teams need people who understand these markets,” Mr Bennett-Coles says. “They also need those with excellent corporate skills. They will know whether companies need to be split and run separately to maximise the opportunities. There are also differences in timescales. In life sciences, teams might expect to see results after a five to twelve years development process. For those with experience of the consumer markets, they would perhaps be looking to develop a product or a service within 18 months. This speed is necessary to ensure the technology isn’t overtaken or another team moves more quickly to bring something to market.”

Two case studies show the importance of that approach:

How technology developed as a cancer diagnostic became a tool in the war on terror

TeraView Ltd, based in Cambridge, was originally set up as part of the Toshiba overseas research laboratories in the 1990s.

It began life as a way of researching cancer diagnostic tools using Terahertz light technology. X-rays give us images of our bones. Terahertz T-rays allow us to see molecular structures. TeraView uses T-ray light, which sits between microwaves and infrared, as a tool to carry out tests and inspections. The T-rays allow the creation of 3D images. Though the technology was originally developed as a tool in cancer diagnostics, it soon became obvious that it had several other applications which needed to be developed. Alongside medical testing, TeraView’s technology is used in the pharmaceutical, semi-conductor, and solar industries. It is also used to test for explosives, noxious gases, and non-metallic weapons.

Technology which began as a medical diagnostic is now an important tool in security screening. TeraView’s CEO Don Arnone says: “These opportunities became apparent quite early on. We could see there was potential in three or four different markets and we pulled in people with experience of operating in those markets. We knew we needed a team with the right technical skills and an entrepreneurial flair and professionals with a good knowledge of those markets to commercialise the technologies we were producing. Initially, we brought people in on a consultancy basis, then o contract. As we moved forward, they stayed with us. We brought in people who understand markets in the USA and those who have experience in the automotive market. As the company grew and we faced different challenges, we needed a technological team which could help us deliver solutions fairly rapidly. We also needed people who could develop and maintain customer relationships in our different markets. We’ve maintained a flat structure. We don’t have a bunch of expensive executives or vice presidents, for example.

“As we have developed, we have grasped opportunities and our team has developed knowledge and skill in different markets. We developed a product for the inspection of microchips in mobile phones for Intel in 2008/9. Since then, the team has developed contacts and experience in the semi-conductor industry after working with Intel’s engineers for eight years. As we’ve grown, our team has adapted to different markets and technologies, and there has been some convergence. However, there are still differences in markets which must be taken into account. Someone in sales in the semi-conductor market would not be particularly adaptable to selling in the automotive market, for example.”

Understanding different markets is helping one company expand overseas

For innovative company Ieso Digital Health, building a team with an understanding of different healthcare marketplaces has been a key building block to success. The Cambridgeshire company was launched in 2011. It delivers cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to patients through a ground-breaking online method. Its Director Dr Andy Richards explains: “There’s a well-known inhibition when a patient sees a therapist face-to-face. Freud recognised this. It takes several sessions to build trust and an honest dialogue. We deliver therapy online using a written method which helps our qualified therapists to develop trust with patients much more quickly than if they were physically seeing a therapist. Our system is highly secure and a written record of all sessions is kept – something which is useful to therapists and patients and allows improved protocols to be developed. Patients can access treatment via our online method more quickly than physically seeing a therapist, and out treatment has proved highly effective in many cases. We took the decision in the UK to work within the NHS, rather than privately, so our patients are referred to us by NHS trusts.

However, there is a growing market need for this approach overseas, and this is where the right leadership team has become an important element in Ieso Digital Health’s growth. Alongside skills in the commercial and technical fields, the company’s team has needed market-specific knowledge. Dr Richards says: “If you take the United States, the ‘behavioural health’ market is very under served, but healthcare is delivered in a very different way than within the NHS including Medicaid and the private healthcare segments. So, we have needed senior people with experience and skills in those markets, we have ‘aimed high’. An additional key factor for us is regulation. It can be a complex area. In the USA, regulation varies from state to state, and in Europe from country to country. We need people with a deep understanding of what’s needed to operate in these markets. Without the right people in place, companies will make a lot of mistakes.”

The opportunities in the cross-over space between therapy and technology are substantial. With one in four of us likely to suffer from mental illness in our lives, and a growing focus on preventative medicine for mental health issues, world-wide demand for online therapy is only likely to grow. For Mr Bennett-Coles, the lessons learned by companies like TeraView and Ieso Digital Health are vital for any forward-thinking business in the field of life sciences. Without the right skills and the right entrepreneurial spirit, teams will fail to take advantage of opportunities for experimentation and growth, he says. Future success starts with the visionary leadership to build those teams.

Tarquin's Blog

 Written by Tarquin Bennett-Coles, Principal Consultant at Carmichael Fisher and longstanding One Nucleus/ERBI member.

 The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.

 

 

 

Posted in May 2017 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Neurodiversity and what are the effects on Cambridge business when the NHS and local authority do not address dyslexia and Asperger Syndrome in adult life.

I write this blog to share a personal story of some of my experiences and knowledge gained after a later life diagnosis of Dyslexia and Asperger syndrome in Cambridge.

What does Neurodiversity mean?

A recent research paper published by ACAS on, ‘Neurodiversity at work’, by Bewley, H. and Anitha, G. (2016) state that ’Neurodiversity refers to the diversity of the human brain and neurocognitive functioning’. It expresses neurodiversity as the umbrella term to encompass neurotypical and neurodivergent. The neurotypical brain is associated with what is considered ’normal’ functioning, whilst the neurodivergent differs from this ‘norm’. The report suggests that, ‘The neurodiversity paradigm embraces all neurocognitive functioning equally and that, the individual minority types are natural human variations, which are authentic forms of human diversity and self-expression, rather than pathologies’.

Neurodivergent encompasses cognitive differences including; dyslexia, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia, ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum conditions including Asperger syndrome, OCD and Tourette’s syndrome. The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) highlights that, ‘there are more people with Dyslexia/neurodiversity than all the other disabilities put together’, yet little publicity is given to them.

The social model of disability, which is supported by the Equality Act 2010, states that, ‘It is the way in which society organises itself that creates disability’. The infrastructure required to support neurodiversity needs to start with education for all, so that policy, practice and procedure can be inclusive, in every facet of life. It is not the Neurodivergent individual who needs to be squashed through society’s one-size-fits-all hoop, rather it is society that needs to be educated to provide a choice, to allow everyone a hoop of their choice.

Cambridge is a magnet for neurodivergence, because of the, mathematical, high tec. and research industries in the region. This is further reinforced by Roelfsema et al (2011) who identified that there are significantly more children with Autism in IT rich regions and Wei et al (2003) who suggests that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) students are more likely to choose STEM subjects. In addition, research by Julie Logan on dyslexic entrepreneur’s highlights that in the UK 20% of successful entrepreneurs have been identified as dyslexic and in the US the percentage is 13% higher. I would argue that the reason for this higher percentage is that the US are more open and forward thinking in the field of neurodiversity, resulting in this population flourishing.

The government has identified a goal to halve the disability employment gap by 2020. There is already legislation, indicated below, that should accommodate inclusion for this population. However, the lack of education in society does not allow this to follow through in practice.

  • 2006 The Public Sector Duty
  • 2009 The Autism Act –  It is identified that just 16% of Autistic adults are in full-time paid work and overall just 32% of Autistic adults are in some kind of work. (NAS) A talent pipeline waiting to be tapped.
  • 2010 Equality Act.

My experience

It is my passion to communicate to the employment world the extreme lack of healthcare, education and diagnosis of dyslexia and Asperger syndrome in the UK and more particular in Cambridge. It is difficult to deal with a problem until you accept that it exists. There is no diagnosis for adults with dyslexia and no support except in the private sector. For the last eighteen years, the NHS have contracted Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service (CLASS), to diagnose Aspergers in adults, but there is no help or support after diagnosis. As a result there are no doctors in Cambridge who have any knowledge of dyslexia and Asperger syndrome in adults. This creates two issues 1) that they cannot diagnose and do not know how or where to provide support and understanding to improve the quality of life and 2) they do not know the effects on an Asperger person so do not know how to change their behaviour and comply with Public Sector Duty. This is not the case in other Cities.

Dyslexia

You may ask me how, I came to connect with dyslexia /Asperger syndrome as a mature adult. Well, I have spent a lifetime trying to find out what my differences were, with unaware doctors in the NHS and the education system. This is the story of many adults in the UK. It is so sad because we have lost a life of achievement. By the age of 7 a child knows that they are different from their peers, but they do not understand why and cannot express it. They then have to spend a lifetime hiding it, because education and employment condemn a person to believe that they are not bright, or good enough. I am sure you may know the saying ‘If you ask a fish to climb a tree it will believe that it is stupid for the whole of its life’. It is not the dyslexics who are stupid, it is society who is unaware of the challenges they face.

My first step on the road to diagnosis was in recognition of the difference between the wealth of knowledge in my head and the content of language that came out on paper or verbally. This recognition led me to question a friend on how she thought. I was aghast as she told me about a tick-a-tape of words running across her head. I could not comprehend that and I explained my own experience of visualising a beautiful, illuminated image with smaller detailed images springing up simultaneously within the main image. I don’t need words, I just know. However, the problem lies in when you have to tell other people what you know. The amount of information in my head at one moment in time, far exceeds my friend’s tick-a-tape of words, yet she would be regarded as brighter than me because she could just repeat a tick-a-tape sentence in an instance and I would struggle to be succinct. This is the story of a dyslexic. We are often highly intelligent, creative 3D thinkers who see the bigger picture. We have a different way of doing things and in seeing the world around us. It doesn’t make us dense, it makes us valuable. If you have a problem or a policy that is not working, find a dyslexic because their bigger picture thinking will provide a prompt, creative solution.

Dyslexia is about a spikey profile where some of your profile maybe in the 90 percentile whilst one or two may be in 30/40 percentile. The gap between the spikes is what dyslexia is. The low spikes tend to be in working memory and processing speed. In the non-dyslexic all the profile points would tend to be roughly along a straight line. In order for a person to understand their level of Dyslexia, an assessment needs to be performed by a trained expert. These are not provided free on the NHS or in education. Instead they have to be paid for privately. The cost is prohibitive at around £500-£600 per report. As they are in the private sector there is no standardised monitoring and critical research came out last year highlighting the poor performance of assessments.

Whilst the BDA currently advertise that 10% of the population has dyslexia, this was a view gained from the 1960/70s when a number of research documents were averaged. However, the government do not diagnose and there are many people who have dyslexia, but have not been diagnosed. So there is no capability to accurately identify the number of dyslexics in the UK.

There is a petition https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/168137 which is trying to get a diagnosis for dyslexia carried out by the NHS. This is where it should be diagnosed because it is about a brain difference. The government’s response may claim that they already fulfill the diagnosis need because they already diagnose in schools and produce education reports for diagnosed children. However, these education reports are not acceptable in a court of law and the government will not accept them when allocating Disability Students Allowance. An expert’s assessment is required. Indeed, one education authority will not accept the educational report of another, so where is the value?

I feel that the symptoms of dyslexia are similar to the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and I asked the research charity if there was a correlation. I was told that someone in Canada found a gene in dyslexia and Alzheimer’s but they would need funding to do the research.

Asperger Syndrome

I soon realised that dyslexia did not cover all my problems and started researching on the internet. I came across Asperger syndrome and believed I presented with its symptoms. I found CLASS and downloaded all the information to take to a GP to request a referral. I was refused an assessment by CLASS because my parents died when I was teenager. CLASS was set up by researchers who needed a population for their research. They wanted an outcome of Asperger syndrome or High Functioning Autism and therefore developed their assessment tools to meet those requirements. The difference is that someone with High Functioning Autism may not begin to speak until later childhood e.g. 9/10 or later, whilst an Asperger person would speak at the normal childhood rate. They recommended I approach Leicester NHS for an assessment.  It took me over a year to obtain a confirmation that I had Aspergers syndrome. I have spent over 40 years in the NHS with doctors who were unable to consider Asperger syndrome because of their lack of education. A copy of the report was sent to my GP and Cambridge and Peterborough Foundation Trust. (CPFT) with a request to provide a care package. They responded by stating they did not deal with Asperger syndrome and from this point my years of struggle with all the public sector in Cambridge began.

Legislation states that the NHS and local authority have a legal duty to provide an assessment of needs for a vulnerable person and this has been the case since 1990. Yet, the statements that came flying at me from the NHS/Local Authority were ‘They would not deal with me because I had an IQ over 70’, ‘they have no doctors who have any knowledge of Asperger syndrome’. I was denied counselling because ‘I was no different to anyone else with the same condition’. This was all very disheartening because had I lived in Leicester I would have readily been provided with help and support. A diagnosis as an adult in both dyslexia and Asperger syndrome is a life changing experience and to leave someone with no support and understanding is quite shocking and a damming indictment on Cambridge for failing to comply with their legal duties. Over the years nothing has changed, they are just pretending to address the issue, to tick the boxes.

Why is understanding neurodiversity so important to the present and future of Cambridge?

The failure to address late diagnosis clearly has an effect on the economy, health and judicial system, but it also affects the talent pipeline for business in Cambridge. There are no programmes in the DWP/Job Centre to provide support for this population in getting into work, however, if you are lucky enough to secure employment, there is ‘Access to Work’ from the DWP, which will help initially, in funding for technical/support equipment and training for the team. This is helpful, but what we need is ‘education for all’ to transform the culture and behaviour within organisations. Business has a right to expect that corporate and local taxes will ensure that Cambridge is one of the most neurodiverse knowledgeable cities in the UK. We have a rich supply of talent in Cambridge and many international employees will always want to have Cambridge on their CV. Would someone for Silicon Valley want to come and bring their family to Cambridge knowing there was no support in this area? Dyslexia is hereditary but the question is out on Autism. We have a responsibility to grow the seeds and nurture the neurodivergent population, whilst it is with us. How can organisations address Wellbeing and stress if they don’t address dyslexia and Asperger syndrome first? The NHS, Education and employment do not yet have the knowledge and skills to accommodate this, but must develop the enquiring mind to do so.

We are competing in the global market place for talent, but are those who manage the recruitment and talent pipelines educated and sufficiently accommodating, to be inclusive of the neurodivergent population? In the world outside Cambridge, many organisations are recognising and targeting this population. Cambridge is being left behind. In the US Microsoft https://news.microsoft.com/stories/people/kyle-schwaneke.html and in Europe SAP http://www2.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/05/16/sap-recruits-100-autistic-employees-in-three-years.aspx have been developing specific recruitment programmes for the autistic population. This is now being introduced in the UK in London https://news.microsoft.com/en-gb/2016/02/26/microsoft-extends-autism-and-inclusive-hiring-programme-to-uk/#sm.000qz6289173fd8ipv019xb9yiyky#ETprW4ZalYCh0gvk.97. GCHQ specifically recruit from the dyslexic population. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2764078/Government-intelligence-agency-employs-dozens-dyslexic-spies-special-skills-help-crack-codes.html. What is Cambridge doing?

Cambridge Neurodiversity Hub

I want to help Cambridge build a bridge into my world, so that you too can see and share the quality skills of the neurodivergent population. Cambridge Neurodiversity Hub, aims to educate and facilitate learning for Business in Cambridge. We are looking to create a membership organisation and seeking four founder members to guide its development.

To provide a step into learning, Neurodiversity Educational Workshops will be held in Cambridge in the near future.

If you are interested please check out the website: www.cambridgeneurodiversityhub.co.uk  or email at info@cambridgeneurodiversityhub.co.uk

blog

Written by Carol Fowler, Learning and Development Manager and Cambridge Neurodiversity Hub.

The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.

Posted in March 2017 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Need to recruit multilingual, creative problem solvers experienced in working in teams and on a wide variety of challenges?

Go Dutch.

In 2015, Sophianum school in Gulpen were keen to work with a life sciences research centre in Cambridge. Harriet Fear, CEO of OneNucleus was approached and she worked hard to find an appropriate partner which would commit to a long term and hopefully, symbiotic relationship.

She succeeded – thank you Harriet.

The Babraham Institute accepted the challenge and a team of their scientists are presenting projects, in English, to the students in Gulpen (near Maastricht) as this is typed. The Dutch students are fluent in English and study at least three languages including their own. Communication throughout the exercise continues via email, weekly videos and Skype.

The Sophianum school sits on the border of Belgium and Germany and accepts students from the local area regardless of home address or nationality. They join at 12 and go through to pre-university.

There is a strong International outlook involving links and exchanges with schools in Hong Kong, Canada, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Norway and Spain. Despite their best efforts it has proved very difficult to maintain links with English schools.

Students engaged in their national Technasium scheme are required to respond to real life challenges set by a company or institution. This is not extra-curricular or an add on. It is very firmly part of the school’s approach and is nationally managed.

Dutch education has undergone some major changes in recent years. The Technasium approach recognises the demand for students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to ensure they can contribute and be happy as global citizens in the 21st century. The course called, Research and Design, places an emphasis on research, communication and team skills.

In 2016 the projects involved three diverse challenges set by the Babraham Institute, all of which developed in conjunction with staff in the Institute’s animal facility and related to the Institute’s openness about their use of animals in research:

Challenge 1: Design a solution to allow the top and bottom rows of cages in a rack to be efficiently checked with the minimum of risk to the technician.

Challenge 2: Communication between units in the facility

Challenge 3: Investigating legislation and public opinion

The projects for 2017 include a repeat of Challenge 1 from 2016, with new projects relating to the Institute’s research and one of its science facilities.

During the exercise the competencies of each team member are reviewed as they develop their own skills and support the group process. Assessing collaborative activity is notoriously difficult but the Technasium approach is innovative and works. 50% of the final grade is awarded for process actions – how effective they are at managing and executing the research and design activity.  The review involves an assessment team, self-assessment, peer review and teacher assessment.

None of the elements of Technasium are unique but the combination is globally, uncommon. Key factors are that each school accepts and commits to the ethos, and the firmly evidence based, learning approaches required. Teachers are carefully selected and given specific training in teaching and ‘scaffolding’ creative problem solving – not all teachers have the attributes necessary.

The assessment methods employed also recognise that traditional methods are inappropriate. Students peer review their work and teachers grade and approve attainment in key and transferable competencies using an established, carefully devised, European Union (EU) scheme. The competencies are hierarchical, accumulate, and can be used to support university and employment applications.

Of the eight EU competencies, three are key: Learning to learn – the ability to effectively manage one’s own learning, either individually or in groups, Social and civic competencies and a sense of initiative and entrepreneurship.

Boo, Mike and Dori Malcom BlogBoo Virk, Dori Horkai and Mike Hinton, from the Babraham Institute, brief the Dutch students in the newly-opened Technasium facilities at Sophianum School, Gulpen

In Sophianum the curriculum is broad and balanced and the accommodation for the Technasium groups is new and inviting.  An industrial design facility including 3D printers, systems and electronics kit and hand tools, together with well-equipped science facilities, ensure that students are using up to date, appropriate equipment.

The students are fortunate and enthusiastic. The Babraham Institute should be commended for their wisdom in engaging with this.

Why? Because the writer of this article has experience of students tackling real life, company inspired projects, including one which was adopted and resulted in a significant increase in production for a medical device. Collaboration enriches us all.

Our young people are creative and able – they only need to be offered the opportunities. Harriet, Mike and their teams are inspiring our scientists and technologists of the future – we need them!

Discover more:

The Technasium Network

https://www.technasium.nl/netwerken/overzicht

Babraham Institute Report on the Project

http://www.babraham.ac.uk/search/results?q=sophianum

Sophianum School, Technasium

http://www.sophianum.nl/atheneum/technasium/

EU Lifelong Learning key competences

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=URISERV%3Ac11090

Written by Malcolm Moss with the support of the partners

The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.

 

Posted in March 2017 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment