A new steer for BioVale – Alice North taking the helm
I’ve been leading the BioVale team for three months now, following the retirement of Elspeth Bartlet. Having been part of the BioVale team since 2015, I feel very proud of what we’ve achieved so far. I’m also looking forward to the future and how we can further help to develop the regional bioeconomy. These are some of the activities that I would like the BioVale team to continue to deliver on and develop further:
First on my list is entrepreneurship support. I’ve really enjoyed working with innovators over the past 6 years and seeing their ideas and businesses develop. It’s also given me an understanding of what bio-based entrepreneurs need, in terms of specialised advice, mentoring and access to equipment. Our training ‘BioCamps’ attracted entrepreneurs from across North-West Europe, including several participants from the Yorkshire and Humber region but I feel that we now have many more regional companies who could benefit from this type of training and I would love to be able to offer more of these intensive workshops in the future. BioVale helped to create some great business relationships and I know from keeping in touch with many of the companies we worked with that they continue to use and value the connections they made. Nothing has given me greater pleasure than to watch Alex Setchfield and Dan Leadbeater win the 2021 international G-BIB final or Holiferm, a company that attended our BioCamp in 2018 announced that they have raised $7M of investment. I’m delighted to say that Chris Hiscocks will be joining the BioVale team on the 25 July to help us further develop our entrepreneurship support offer. Watch this space…!
Secondly, I would like to continue to develop partnerships and collaborations with others working to support the bioeconomy both at the University of York and further afield, including other international bioeconomy cluster organisations. Having missed out on many networking opportunities in the last couple of years due to the dreaded COVID-19, I’m really looking forward to making new connections and building on existing ones. I’ve worked on the BioYorkshire proposal looking at what a Bioeconomy Skills Academy and Accelerator could look like in terms of activities and impact and I will continue to support the activities of the High Value Biorenewables Network. Most recently, I’ve been working with Anglo American to look at how we can support bio-based entrepreneurs and businesses in the Scarborough area and I look forward to continuing to develop this relationship. I’ve enjoyed speaking to groups such as Enactus York about the bioeconomy and why it’s important and I’ve got several talks to regional schools planned.
Business support for SMEs
As a team of the BDC, BioVale has also delivered pre-funded business assist projects for a range of businesses. These have focussed on our key strengths, including communications, event planning, and delivery and we have also enjoyed making useful one-to-one introductions and carrying out desk-based research to help companies with their packaging and product development. In the last year, for example, we’ve written blog content for Single Use Alternatives, a packaging company, and facilitated workshops for York IP firm Secerna and regulatory advisers Woodley Bioreg. In October, we’ll be running a workshop on biofuels for Broadmanor Consulting Ltd We will continue to work on these types of projects providing practical support for bioeconomy companies in our region and, through these projects, further developing our understanding of the type of support businesses need to grow and how clusters like BioVale can help make this happen.
As my colleagues know, I’m never afraid of a new challenge that gives me the opportunity to develop my skills. A couple of examples of projects that I’ve been lucky enough to work on were the creation of a bioeconomy board game and digital game and, more recently, a Bioeconomy MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), both of which have reached global audiences and helped educate audiences about the bioeconomy. Both of these projects involved a lot of research but were great fun to create. I can’t wait to see what opportunities will come our way in 2022 and beyond. I’m sure whatever they are, the BioVale team will be able to rise to the challenge. Elspeth was a superb mentor who helped all of us believe in ourselves and we look forward to building on her great work.