My Question is….Networking Lunch Meeting, October 26 2020

Online gatherings are a bit like marmite, and it is fair to say they have the life science community divided.  However, during uncertain times when face-to-face networking is not possible, there is the option to move online or cancel altogether. 

‘My Question is…’ was the title for an online networking event that One Nucleus held on 26 October 2020.  You could say, to some extent, it was experimental, but based on feedback from our members about the aspects that they missed or welcomed most about online meetings compared to face-to-face.  The results were unsurprising, and it was serendipitous networking that was missed the most.  One Nucleus enthusiastically moved forward to fill this need.

The format of the event was randomly allocated breakout rooms.  Each had its own room host who led a discussion around a question of their choice and in doing so there would be time for introductions and knowledge sharing.  After 30 minutes of discussion time, we all gathered again in the main room and each host shared the key outputs.   As much as there is value in discussing the topics during the event, it is also being able to share the summaries post event to disseminate the insights more widely.  So here I am pleased to share with you each question as submitted along with the highlights from each discussion (note, the views represent that of the group and not necessarily the author of the question!):

Question 1: "If Covid-19 is endemic, how do we live with it - personally and professionally?"
Sue Charles, Charles Consultants

  • Focus on the positive learnings, e.g. new skills for utilising digital platforms enabling more flexibility and adaptive working and meeting more people internationally without the expense of travel
  • Whilst working from home, it is important to find ways to stay in touch with the bigger picture and to make a positive effort to contact others for catch ups (not just scheduled meetings)
  • Working from home requires investment in self, e.g. to go for a walk and discipline to create boundaries between work and home time/place

Question 2: “Is traditional, cold call business development email outreach now passe and if yes, what do we do instead?"
Tony Jones, One Nucleus

  • Everyone was experiencing higher promotional traffic pre-Covid-19, the disruption has accelerated that trend but it is important for those wishing to partner, sell services/products or consult to be able to showcase what they have to offer and email seems to be the best of the bunch in terms of cold outreach and we all deal with it in our own ways
  • Making it personal and tailored certainly helps and it wasn’t seen as a negative to follow up with non-responders to the first approach if done in the right way/tone with the aim of initiating a conversation rather than closing a quick deal
  • The effectiveness of word of mouth referrals, repeat sales and through networking should not be underestimated and using networking opportunities and similar to build rapport, trust and relationships is key in our sector which is heavily people driven when it comes to deal cycles

Question 3: “How can we lead change effectively to accelerate success?"
Kathryn Simpson, Kathryn Simpson Consulting

  • Plan and involve people to reassure them that we are not just reacting to events
  • Adopt new ways of working and embrace new opportunities to balance our wellbeing and productivity and to think more globally
  • Invest in new tools and technology to ensure we can sustain our new ways of working

Question 4: “How can we make networking more personal, similar to how we may meet in the real world and have those conversations that help us to connect?"
Ivan Langan, Quay Pharma

  • Preparation can be key to getting the most out of a virtual conference, e.g. organising your schedule and prioritising your time (as in pre Covid times)
  • Encouraging presenters to attend the networking after their presentations may give participants the opportunity to meet & discuss/ask more questions which they may not feel happy to ask in a more open forum through the chat facility on the digital platform
  • Digital conferences are still evolving, and the future may see more hybrid events, we will have to wait & see…

Question 5: “Should a patent be granted for an AI-made invention?"
Tom Leanse, J A Kemp

  • The prevailing view was that a human operator should be considered the inventor, even if the “heavy lifting” was done by AI
  • Interesting suggestions were put forward for how to deal with situations in which there is no inventive human input (which we might expect to occur more often in future), including making AI-originating inventions freely available and focussing the patent system on inventions which did require an element of real-world human “responsibility” for the subject matter of the invention, e.g. inventions derived from clinical trials

Question 6: “How can we promote careers in science better?"
Anne Bailey, Form the Future

  • Helping people recognise the range of roles available in science that go beyond research e.g. roles in fundraising, shaping strategy, business development, marketing, and regulatory affairs
  • Be prepared to invest time – sometimes several years – in training and developing people, and there’s always a risk of losing them just when they become fully competent and productive  (it is important to check your assumptions about what qualifications are necessary to perform different roles)
  • There is a far wider range of skills needed in the life sciences sector and we are even seeing CEOs without science backgrounds – so it is important to demonstrate the breadth of opportunities in science careers

So why not give this virtual networking a go? The next ‘My Question is…’ will be on Monday 30th November at 1pm.  There is the chance to engage in meaningful conversations whilst also expanding your network. Register here.