University of Bristol research centre BrisSynBio will be running a 4-day More Business Acumen (MBA) course from 9 – 12 April 2018. Applications are open now for the course, which aims to provide participants with the knowledge and skillset needed to design, establish and maintain a biotech company.

“The chance to prepare and deliver a pitch under some pressure was one of the most valuable experiences I had on the course”


BrisSynBio, a multi-disciplinary research centre which focuses on the engineering aspects of synthetic biology and biomolecular design, is delivering the MBA course in partnership with SynbiCITE. The course will take place at Unit DX, a science incubator that offers lab space and support to new science and tech companies in Bristol.

Responding to last years’ success

BrisSynBio is running the course again following its overwhelming success in 2017, where one participant called it: “An excellent introduction to starting up a synthetic biology rich business… I particularly enjoyed the opportunities to network with people who have considerable experience in the business side of biotech – not something that you typically get to do as a PhD student.”

Another participant added: “I thought the chance to prepare and deliver a pitch under some pressure was one of the most valuable experiences I had on the course.”

Visiting speakers included seasoned entrepreneurs and investors. Steve Bennet, of Solexa – the DNA sequencing company worth millions – was particularly inspiring for the groups.

BrisSynBio MBA 2017 cohort

Brains in biotech: 2017’s successful MBA applicants


The course then culminated in a pitch event, where participants delivered their business ideas to venture capitalists (VCs). Over the 4-day course there were some brilliant business plans developed, one of which has received funding and is now an incorporated VC-backed biotech company.

Cash prizes

The 2018 participants will be put into teams at the beginning of the course where they will be working towards prizes of up to £10,000 to help their business ideas come to fruition.

“There is lots of support available following the course for those that might want it,” Dr Andy Boyce, BrisSynBio Innovations Manager (pictured left) tells us, “and this year we have more money for prizes.”

£4,000 extra, in fact, and these prizes can be used to give the teams the exact support they need. Some will be cash prizes, but some will also help towards travel, setting up websites, designing logos and hosting the business at Unit DX.

“That’s one thing we really want to focus on: providing additional support to participants,” says Andy. “The MBA course might only be 4 days, but it’s incredibly intensive. We found the participants really bonded with those they worked with. We want to help build on this so that it becomes the basis for a long-term community.”

This years’ course will finish with BrisSynBio’s Connect event, which is free to attend. Connect will see the MBA participants pitch their synthetic biology business ideas to real biotech investors.

Starting from scratch? No Problem!

Andy assures us that, with the aid of team collaboration, applicants don’t need to have a business idea already in order to apply. “Some of those that took part last year came to us without a startup concept in mind, so don’t worry,” he explains.

“When that lightening-strike moment hits and the ideas do come, you’ve got a good basis for starting up”


Andy adds: “Someone in the group will have an idea, even if it’s just a small inkling of something, and you’ll be able to build it together.”

BrisSynBio received extremely positive feedback from those who took the course last year, and Andy echoes this. “It’s really beneficial, even if you don’t come away with a fully-formed biotech business. As, when that lightening-strike moment hits and the ideas do come, you’ll have a good basis for starting up.”

Reaching untapped potential

Teams on the 2017 MBA worked together to pitch a biotech business idea

There are a small number of free places and travel bursaries available to female participants this year, as well as those who plan to establish new biotech companies in the local area.

“Our course will be better overall if we have a wider diversity”


Only two of the 2017 group were women, so this year BrisSynBio hopes to improve upon female interest. “Unfortunately, it seems like male students and researchers are more inclined to refer to themselves as ‘entrepreneurs’,” comments Andy, “but if there is a whole group of people not currently taking part in courses like these, that’s a lot of untapped potential. Our course will be better overall if we have a wider diversity.”

Andy would also like to encourage Bristol-based researchers to apply for the course. “Participants on the cusp of starting a new business will feel confident taking that step after the MBA,” he reassures us, “and we can help them to become part of the vibrant and entrepreneurial culture in the city.”

Applications for the 2018 4-day MBA are open now. To find out more about the course and how to apply, check out the BrisSynBio website. You can also follow the @BrisSynBio Twitter page to stay in-the-loop about upcoming research and events.

Amy Barrett