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Chris Evans Bench to billions - 27th Mar 2012

Chris Evans was the keynote speaker at the recent One Nucleus Bench to Boardroom Conference, here is my blog on the day.


The Remtec team exhibited at the One Nucleus conference Bench to Boardroom on March 6th

Arriving on a crisp March morning to Newmarket Race course one hoped the quality of the networking and talks equalled the fine bloodstock seen on the gallops upon arrival.

It was Remtec's first main exhibition of 2012 and we had a big day planned, there is the chance to win an IPad 2 in our business card draw, cynics would say we got it cheap since the IPad 3 is rumoured to be launching the very next day and later in the morning I'm filming a 5 minute promotional video for our business so look out for this on YouTube soon.

The first keynote speaker is Professor Sir Chris Evans OBE Founder and Chairman Excalibur Fund Managers (formerly Merlin Biosciences) and Excalibur Group.
Chris is talking about Bench to Billions, he opened by describing how the Biotech sector is not looking to good, company boards do not have enough money to commercialise the ideas coming from the bench. There is though plenty of cash from investors, product pipelines at big Pharma are thin and they are seeking to improve this and invest in need ideas.

For him the key to success is good products and good scientists, with a good plan, able to raise the money then it's a mix of hard work and a bit of luck and he is passionate about seeing the products in use helping patients.
In the current marketplace the golden aim is ‘are you meeting an unmet need’  in cancer, neuro, CV disease and Infectious diseases, he suggested the next big thing is stem cells and organ replacement.

Chris showed a slide he said he first showed 25 years ago and would still be current in 25 years. He states  that a company board needs an entrepreneur to drive things forward, to be risk taking, charming  show leadership and be persuasive, to sell the idea and talk the language to develop your products.
He ended by stating the current Excalibur criteria for investment opportunities is having top management in place or identified, commercially viable products at the cutting edge of the market, a strong product pipeline, good IP meeting an unmet clinical need with a good plan and strategy a good valuation with an exit plan.
His key lessons were to never give up, believe in yourself, be careful who you trust, do the hard work yourself, plan for success, seek expert views,  employ people with energy, intellect and enthusiasm, avoid conflicts and politics, take cash from value and recycle and live the dream.

I have to say Chris was a great speaker and has clearly created and sold some great companies with over $5bn in value, his style is very motivational, enough of the science but also some great stories about deals he has achieved and closed.
He was asked who he thought was a rising star company currently in Cambridge and he stated that Abcam was the best thing he had seen for a while that he was not involved with, the next question was from an Abcam delegate who asked Chris, given your admiration for Abcam what do you suggest we do next? To great laughter in the audience at this cheeky question, Chris answered he would happily discuss over a coffee, with the clock ticking for his time no less.

During this session some of the Remtec team had been busy collecting business cards for the Ipad 2 prize draw, they had done very well and made some good contacts along the way.

The other key speaker was Alison Campbell OBE Former MD of Kings College London Business Ltd  and an Advisor to the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. 
Alison opened by stating there needs to be an I in innovations since entrepreneurs need that self drive and great idea, coupled by a great strength of passion and purpose which needs to be encouraged but likely can't be trained.
A great sense of self is also important, as is a good proposition, you need to practice your proposition alot to be shaped, experimented with and take risks.
Working in partnership helps with idea refinement, helps to develop a proposition, to develop the market for the proposition and one does need the right partners at the right time in the company development cycle.
The British Venture Capital Association Companies www.bvca.co.uk  invested £313m in 397 co's according to their last annual report, this was only 4% of their funds under management in their member company funds.
As Sir Chris Evans had done earlier she described how there is plenty of money available however the funding gap in the UK is at the early stage taking ideas from the Proof of Concept to a technology readiness level able to attract some real level of investment.
Corporate investors are taking a longer term view and seeking to invest just in the killer applications, people do not wish to risk investment that may fail.
Her view was that the UK is one of the best places that industry works with academics and they are developing breadth and depth in this. Proctor and Gamble are working well with Durham, where there is a positive multi disciplinary approach to problem solving, the great companies do not always know what problems they wish to solve!
The Easy access IP system www.easyaccessip.org.uk  in the UK allows access to orphan IP for free, over 10 Universities many from the UK have opted into this now. This allows them to focus their investments on lower risk areas. The feeling behind this is about giving this IP away to industry so they can take the risk and see what happens and Universities will not require anything in return.

Her parting comment was ‘we should all go to work knowing what the return on our investment in each day is going to be’ something for us all to consider.

By this time the Remtec team had been very busy and collected many more business cards and the Ipad 2 draw was nearing, the conference was drawing to a close and the infamous Dr Hal www.drhal.co.uk was going through his expert routine, showing us various chemical interactions and explosions, one of those ‘do not do this at home demonstrations’ this guy is crazy setting fire to volatile chemical compounds in large test tubes with the accompanying loud noises. A very watchable display.

The Ipad 2 prize draw was performed by Harriet Fear CEO of One Nucleus, the proud winner was Steve Brough from Asynt Ltd, he can be seen receiving the Ipad from Harriet in the photo.

All in all the team collected many business cards made a number of new contacts and one happy delegate went home with a new Ipad, as I drove out of Newmarket Racecourse the sun was just setting across the gallops signalling the end of a productive day.

Ian Sandison is a Director of Remtec Search and Selection a leading European Lifescience and medtech search company. He also assists healthcare inventors start new businesses, contributes to the Cambridge University Judge Business School Entrepreneurship and MBA programmes and lectures in Strategic Marketing at Lord Ashcroft International Business School in Cambridge



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