YES Competitions

YES 2018 competition logo

The YES Competitions are aimed at increasing entrepreneurial awareness and include workshops with environmental science themes.

Summary

The YES (Young Entrepreneurs Scheme) Competitions are designed to develop business awareness and an understanding of entrepreneurship in UK postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers. This goal is achieved through a competition in which those participating prepare a business plan for a hypothetical company.

YES participants attend a three-day workshop where they are given training and guidance from leading figures in industry on innovation, presentation skills, teambuilding, project management, and how to become an entrepreneur.

At the end of the workshops, teams present and pitch their ideas for a hypothetical but plausible start-up company.

Two teams from each YES workshop are selected to progress through to the Final hosted at the Royal Society in London.

2018 competition

Please see the YES Competitions website - external link for application details.

Second call for applications closes: 15 June 2018

A briefing session will be held by webinar for all teams participating in the 2018 YES Competition on 1 August. Teams will also be expected to attend one of two scheduled workshops:

  • 3-5 October 2018: Energy, engineering and environment workshop, GSK Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry, Nottingham
  • 17-19 October 2018: Plant, microbial and environment workshop, hosted by Syngenta, Jealott's Hill

Eligibility

The YES Competitions are aimed at PhD students and early-career researchers, for example those in their first or second post-doctoral research appointment.

PhD students working within the NERC remit should look to support their attendance through their Doctoral Training Grant (DTG) in the first instance. If financial support is not available, contact the YES team to apply for a free place sponsored by NERC.

For postdoctoral researchers working within the NERC remit, free places are available when providing evidence of position.

Contact

YES Team

NERC Research Careers Team

Previous workshop winners

Find out more about shortlisted teams from previous competitions.

AlcoaC Ltd team members

Team members names, university and PhD details:

  • Mariela Aguilera Miranda - PhD in plant stress response.
  • Yaomin Cai - 1st round post-doc, PhD in plant programmed cell death.
  • Laura Velázquez Carrasco - PhD in algal biotechnology.
  • Thomas Driver - PhD in algal biotechnology.
  • Victoria Spencer - PhD in plant growth and development.

All from the University of Manchester.

Please describe your business plan in 140 characters.

To ethically and sustainably meet the cocoa deficit, we have developed Alcoa - algal derived cocoa that does not compromise on cost or taste.

Why did you apply for Environment YES?

To bridge the gap in our knowledge between scientific discoveries and a viable business, to develop team and other transferable working skills, as well as the prospect of an enjoyable challenge.

How have you developed your entrepreneurial skills during the Environment YES competition?

By working together as a team, we have combined and developed our individual strengths with the help of YES mentors to create a rounded and coherent business plan. This involved learning about finance, business strategy and intellectual property (IP) from direct information and case studies.

How has taking part in Environment YES enhanced your PhD research / future?

It has given us a wider understanding of the potential impact of our research, as well as highlighting alternative career pathways such as working in industry, as an entrepreneur and in technology transfer. It also improved our transferable skills, such as communication, networking and resilience.

What strengths did you each bring to your company?

  • Mariela Aguilera Miranda - Calming influence, forward-looking approach.
  • Yaomin Cai - Scientific knowledge, cool head, empathic.
  • Laura Velázquez Carrasco - Resourceful, ambitious.
  • Thomas Driver - Open mind, creative, broad IP knowledge.
  • Victoria Spencer - Leadership, diplomatic.

If you win, what do you see as the future for your company?

We believe that our product will supplement traditional cocoa and be found in the vast majority of chocolate bars in ten years time. Our company's mission is to provide an environmentally friendly and sustainable solution to the growing demand for cocoa. We are confident that by combining our product and our mission, we will be able to revolutionise the chocolate industry.

BioPhosphate Solutions team members

Team members names, university and PhD details:

  • Michael Cooper - What lies beneath: a radioglaciological study of Greenland.
  • James Crosby - Fjord biogeochemical dynamics.
  • Moya Macdonald - Trace gases produced in glaciated environments.
  • Serginio Remmelzwaal - Tracking past changes in ocean oxygen concentrations.
  • Emily White - Disentangling sources of CO2 in the UK.

All from the University of Bristol.

Please describe your business plan in 140 characters.

BioPhosphate Solutions provides a service to sewage plants; reducing polluting phosphate in wastewater using algae, subsequently selling these to fertiliser companies.

Why did you apply for Environment YES?

We heard about Environment YES at an innovation training course as part of the NERC GW4+ DTP. We formed a team for EnvYES because we thought it would help us understand more about the business world and how scientific ideas can be translated into real-world applications.

How have you developed your entrepreneurial skills during the Environment YES competition?

Working to a tight deadline during the heat has enhanced our abilities to intensely focus on one task, as well as pushing our ability to work within a team to the maximum. Hearing from the various speakers at Environment YES also gave us some insight to how others with a scientific background have developed businesses.

How has taking part in Environment YES enhanced your PhD research / future?

It has enhanced our ability to communicate scientific ideas in an accessible way. It has helped us to think about the bigger picture of scientific research.

Palm Solutions team members

Team members names, university and PhD details:

  • Tom Jenkins, University of Exeter - Assessing connectivity between MPAs: which taxa to include?
  • Rebecca Perkins, University of Bristol - The role of extensional tectonics in porphyry copper deposit formation in the Maronia magmatic corridor, Thrace Basin, NE Greece.
  • Rose Willoughby, University of Bristol - Improving our understanding of the optical properties of atmospheric aerosols.
  • Robert Yarlett, University of Exeter - Quantifying the role of parrotfish in the production and cycling of carbonate in coral reef ecosystems.

All students at the NERC GW4+ DTP.

Please describe your business plan in 140 characters.

Palm Solutions produces sustainable and traceable palmitic acid, the major constituent of palm oil present in every day products, without costing the earth.

Why did you apply for Environment YES?

To gain knowledge and experience of running a business and how a company spin out from science is different from other businesses.

How have you developed your entrepreneurial skills during the Environment YES competition?

It has been really interesting learning about companies that have spun out from ideas from research. The process has reinforced the significance of presenting the information that the audience are interested in and focusing on the benefits of a process without getting too involved with the technology / science.

How has taking part in Environment YES enhanced your PhD research / future?

We have much more awareness of how businesses are started up and run, and will now definitely consider working in a business.

What strengths did you each bring to your company?

We all bring different strengths, but most importantly we're still able to work well together under stressful conditions and time pressure. Robert has been good at coordinating the team, Rose and Becky are intelligent, quick thinking and efficient, and without Tom we'd all be a lot more stressed out!

If you win, what do you see as the future for your company?

More investigation into the feasibility of the science behind the process to see if we really could provide sustainable palmitic acid.

    Phyto-Switch team members

    Team members names, university and PhD details:

    • James Lambert - 2nd year, unmanned aerial vehicles in agriculture.
    • Hannah Sewell - 2nd year, plant genetics.
    • Ben Ward - 2nd year, vascular biology and immunology.
    • Giannis Xanthis - 2nd year, mechanobiology.

    All from the University of Sheffield.

    Please describe your business plan in 140 characters.

    Drought threatens global food security. Our system induces drought resistance, ensuring viable crop yields cheaper than GMO alternatives.

    Why did you apply for Environment YES?

    We applied for Environment YES because we wanted to broaden our understanding of how lab based science could be translated into viable business ideas.

    How have you developed your entrepreneurial skills during the Environment YES competition?

    Having attended a number of YES led skills sessions, we have all got to grips with a number of different aspects of business and biotech innovation. Although we delegated sections, ie IP or finances, to different team members, we each have a far greater understanding of these important skills.

    How has taking part in Environment YES enhanced your PhD research / future?

    The competition has improved our time management, as well as improving our ability to work within multi-disciplinary teams. We have all agreed that following the competition we would be extremely keen to continue our involvement within business and biotech innovation.

    What strengths did you each bring to your company?

    • James Lambert - The financial guru (our very own rain man) with confident presentation skills and the ability to quickly think upon his feet.

    • Hannah Sewell - A broad and detailed understanding of plant biology, drought and food security. Hannah was extremely important in ensuring our proposed product was viable and scientifically accurate.

    • Ben Ward - The supplier of copious Red Bull, motivation and a voice of reason. Also did some fantastic market research.

    • Giannis Xanthis - A positive and enthusiastic attitude and a good understanding of the correct strategy for the intellectual property of a company such as ours.

    If you win, what do you see as the future for your company?

    We would relish the opportunity to get to pitch again in Texas, we have loved the buzz of being in front of such an influential panel. Although we would have to put the business plan on hold while the science catches up with our ambitions, but we would absolutely love the opportunity to pick this up again in the future. And, if all else fails, we will still stay pals.