GapSummit: Lessons for young scientists and innovators - Connect, Grow, Challenge

My trip to Washington DC started with me waking up in disbelief one morning noticing that my flight time was within 10 hours. The GapSummit conference was held in between the end of lectures and exam period. Therefore, the thought of being halfway around the world before having exams was very unreal and stressful. However, it turns out the lesson I got out of this trip was more valuable and memorable than the course content crammed just for my exams.

GapSummit is Global Biotech Revolution’s conference held every year where 100 young leaders (postgrads, undergrads, PhDs, entrepreneurs, innovators) from more than 40 countries are selected to gather and engage with world-class speakers and leaders in the life sciences industry to discuss challenges and gaps in Bioeconomy, Precision Medicine and Diagnostics, Sustainability, Beyond Education: Success in the 21st century, Life Science Industry, Research and Innovation, Science Policy and Regulation, and Technology. This year, it was my absolute honour to attend this “biotech fiesta” at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Like Kaushala who attended the Gapsummit last year mentioned in her blog post, (Check it out! http://www.chiasma.org.nz/blog/2016/5/20/prdaaozr3rf3nqldey61gxtep8cjac) the lessons we get away from the keynotes are not completely new information. Hearing from world-class speakers and leaders, the messages just seems to become  ten times more powerful and reassuring. Nevertheless, what affected me personally was the networking sessions I spent with the leaders from across the world and the Idea Challenge. I really appreciated every moment spent with biotech enthusiasts. How often do you have the chance to spend time with people from 40+ cultural backgrounds with one thing in common- we all care about biotechnology!? Here are just some points I learned for young budding scientists who are problem solvers and innovators.

Be Open-Minded

As a freshman I was a little skeptical towards the business field. “All the businessman care about is money! They don’t care about poor people. Just look at Trump!” “The business field is full of people who sabotage each other to get to the top of the Capitalist food chain.” Yet, in multiple situations I have been faced with challenges I never thought I’d have to answer such as applying for research grants. In these situations knowing how to make people who are not in your field  understand your idea is just as important as making your experiments work. To learn to think dynamically, and to think in other people’s shoes can assist people from different fields come to a better understanding of each other and work together to solve bigger problems. Innovation is not a one person job in this century; it requires people in all different fields to collaborate together to create something great.

World Vision

The conference attracted young innovators and some of the most successful leaders of today from over 40 countries. I had some of the most intriguing conversations I’ve ever had with people from all over the world, and met the most awesome people. The interesting thing is we all came the realisation of the importance of bringing the ideas we learned in this brief meeting back to our countries and to reality. Every country has their own problems to solve, but there are also global problems we need to deal with. With globalisation being inevitable, decentralised innovation is not enough to satisfy the thirst for global creativity and advancement. The new generation of global innovation demands a network of different expertise, vision, and cultural background collaborate to achieve a superior innovation performance.

Judge critically but not to your ability and passion- take risks

I never thought I was a business orientated person nor an “entrepreneur”. However, I always aspired to put my biotechnology degree to good use; to invent or to innovate. Being a young researcher I have been taught to think or judge critically before doing anything. Eventually, after overthinking absolutely everything, I’ve done nothing to practically use knowledge I learned in my degree. This year, with a few little cash prizes as bait, I entered two business idea challenges. I shouted the two loudest “What?!”s in my life this year, embarrassing myself in front of auditoriums full of people when I received the Velocity Idea Challenge Chiasma Prize for best bioscience business idea and the first place in the Idea Challenge/Pitching competition at GapSummit. Despite the win, the GapSummit Idea Challenge is still the most daunting and scary experience I have ever done (besides kayaking down a waterfall). This was my first time presenting in front of more than 100 professionals. Being able to come first in this competition was absolutely amazing, but also an incredibly humbling experience. I know I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go with public speaking, but I did allow myself to “just do it”, and now I know for sure this is just the beginning!

I gave myself a chance by taking part in these competitions and conferences to learn and to connect with fellow innovators and inventors, despite the conference being just before my exams. The prizes from the challenges are not just the cash itself but the experience and the people I met. You never know what you will gain from opportunities that life presents, but I can guarantee you will have an awesome time simply trying and learning along the way.

So here, I challenge fellow young, budding students, scientists, innovators, and people who are inspired to solve the world’s biggest problems: think big with your research and connect with one another. Research, science, engineering and business need to coexist and come together to function and take action. Take whatever opportunities come your way, such as Chiasma’s very own Synapse, and chat with the speakers, fellow researchers, and professionals. You may be able to obtain a new startup idea, research inspiration or new mentor/teammate that leads you to your next professional journey.