Tony Jones, Chief Executive Officer, One Nucleus
When it comes to change, there is often a feeling of apprehension among those that it might impact the most. Yet as Douglas Baldwin pointed out “Change is inevitable, change will always happen, but you have to apply direction to change and that’s when it’s progress’. Perhaps, just like the Borg in Star Trek claimed: “Resistance is futile!”. Accepting change will happen in all aspects of life, then the challenge becomes one of adding direction for the result to be progress as opposed to just different.
It is in the DNA of One Nucleus to embrace change and be innovative. After all, we operate in one of the most innovative sectors on Earth, so to shy away from innovating would render us a weak link. With the support of our members and collaborators we aim to adapt what we do to align with their values such that we are the best versions of ourselves as individuals, businesses and sector when seeking to improve outcomes for patients and society. I believe innovation is a contact sport, relying on people meeting to exchange ideas, challenge accepted dogmas, experiment with the new and daring to be different.
Networking has been at the heart of business and dealmaking since its inception. Several years ago a friend introduced me to Sweetings Restaurant, London describing it as an institution of the City of London. Opened almost a century ago, it was perhaps one of the first such places where early explorers and entrepreneurs sought to meet investors to experiment with them to achieve their dreams (and financial returns). It seems to capture the essence of the role of the people factor in doing business. It has long been argued it’s not what you know but who you know and in turn who they know that enables success. Such systems introduce bias and privilege. This is one key driver for many to want change that enables greater equality, diversity and inclusion. Impossible to ignore is the need for change in how we work, rest and play in order to protect the planet. Technology is changing faster than at any time in history which also means we are enabled to change, as these societal influences help us set a direction that will be deemed progress.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us all how technology has enabled us to connect, exchange ideas, do deals and more whilst being physically distant from colleagues. Is it the same, well no. I would argue there remains a valuable role for in person gatherings and networking to meet the social needs of being human in business and enabling those human collisions that trigger innovative ideas, and are the genesis of collaborations and deals that lead to technological advances that ultimately benefit us all.
Going online opened up opportunities for networking such as the ability to assemble international speaker panels for local events, reduced time and cost of travel to meetings, improved environmental impact, increased accessibility for attendees and more recorded content enabling on-demand viewing when you couldn’t make the live session. In many ways, digital networking events has created a more level playing field when it comes to long distance connections in particular. The other side of that coin has been the increased challenges of networking, a critical activity for the reasons discussed earlier. Perhaps there, the field has got less level, favouring those who entered the socially distant pandemic with well-established personal networks. Compared to the 1930’s when Sweetings opened its doors, the ability to share information over distance is unrecognisable, whether via webinars, written reports or online conferences. What is still recognisable from what some view as those halcyon days, is the importance of local networking to share the information, peer-to-peer learning and informal exchange of ideas that doesn’t appear on globally accessible platforms.
The challenge for One Nucleus and our peer groups is how we harness the best of both worlds in order to:
- Enable our network to meet in person to share those ‘unpublished’ insights
- Support our members in connecting globally
- Level up accessibility for all to share innovation and opportunity, irrespective of geography, occupation or career stage
- Balance the need to gather in person with the need to be environmentally conscious
- Supporting our network in maximizing their engagement whilst minimising the impact on their resources, be that financial, time or work-life balance
The 3 November 2021 provided us with the opportunity to experiment around what the future of our networking meetings, BioWednesdays, could look like. Recognising the value of local networking but global insight, we delivered a Decentralised BioWednesday with the support of Norwich Research Park, Queen Mary Enterprise Zone and Babraham Research Campus and a transatlantic panel discussing “What does the US-China interface mean for the global Life Science industry?”. The format was a Zoom-streamed panel with delegate interaction facilitated via Sli.do to enable maximum flexibility for attendees that covered:
- Attending one of the three hubs for the panel followed by in-person networking
- Independent dial in from their personal space followed by a pub social visit
- Independent dial in from their personal space and no networking
- Viewing on-demand of the recorded panel discussion
The approach, as you would expect for an experiment, provided lessons for further development, but essentially it felt like a strong step in a good direction. The positives were manifold in that it achieved many of the criteria we had set. Reduced overhead for attendees in terms of cost and time; international content and insight; wide geographical accessibility; opportunity to network locally; and diversity of attendee occupation and career stage. The ability to bring content to three cities, this time across the One Nucleus home region, brings advantages for the speakers in terms of engagement and allows us to support a region now with unprecedented scale. A benefit to our network I hadn’t anticipated was the feedback that some groups saw this as an opportunity to stimulate internal dialogue and discussion within internal teams, good for team building, learning & development and strategy setting.
The future holds further opportunities for change with direction too and on our change action list are:
- Introducing supporting technology to enable all attendees to connect directly across all engagement options for partnering and follow up
- Recruiting more hubs, some international, will enable even greater connectivity and exchange within the sector
- Diversifying the content to facilitate cross-sector interaction and hence the Medici Effect
One Nucleus is fortunate to sit within one of the World leading Life Science clusters with our HQ in Cambridge, UK and >70% of our members based in the London-Cambridge-East of England catchment. The above approach of decentralising and, by increasing accessibility also democratizing, Life Science networking has shown how we could connect the epicentre illustrated opposite and into London in a resource efficient way. Looking forward, imagine connecting other World-leading clusters and centres of excellence in this way. Face-to-face networking with peers on your doorstep but connectivity and knowledge of the global Life Science village offers immense potential that literally doesn’t have to cost the Earth.
This aligns well with the suggestions aired in the Nature article ‘An analysis of ways to decarbonize conference travel after COVID-19’. This approach to networking by no means suggests however that larger, centralized gatherings are less valuable. Far from it, we are firmly committed to offer our own larger events (Genesis and ON Helix) and collaborate with other global events such as BioEurope, BIO Convention and Biotech Showcase which are less frequent, and being better connected and informed before attending will mean our members are much better placed to maximise their returns when they do elect to attend them.
As we have heard about so many things, from hybrid working to carbon footprint, there is no one-size fits all approach, but what we can have is balance of business, environmental and personal development and need.
We welcome everyone to join us as we change and develop. Look out for the next opportunities to join our in person, online, conference or indeed decentralised networking opportunities at https://onenucleus.com/events. We hope to see you soon!
Blog by Tony Jones, CEO One Nucleus