The Importance of Supporting Life Science Entrepreneurs

By Marwan Abdulaziz, Executive Director of Dubai Science Park

Dubai is a modern entrepreneurial hub; a place of inspiration, innovation and enterprise. Entrepreneurship acts as a catalyst for a strong, balanced and diversified national economy based on knowledge, ideas and smart design, rather than national resources, which fits into Dubai’s overarching vision of being a thriving innovation-led economy.

Entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of wider economic success and a key engine of growth. The life science industry has benefitted hugely from the growth of start-ups, contributing to drug development, alternative energy solutions and throughout the value chain. As a representative of the science sector, I have personally witnessed skilled, local talent contributing to the industry in a multitude of areas. Dubai Science Park, is home to over 280 companies in the life science industry and represent some of the sector’s leading companies, and since inception in 2008, we have witnessed the impressive growth of a number of our companies. For example, Alliance Global, which employs more than 80 specialists and runs eight regional offices offering distribution, consulting and product development services to more than 40 quality manufacturers of biomedical technologies. Another example is Holistic International Testing Services (HITS), the region’s first privately owned laboratory Accredited by Dubai Accreditation Center (DAC), the recognized UAE body by International Laboratories Accreditation (ILAC).

There are certain challenges faced by entrepreneurs and start-ups across all industries when setting up a business. From complex legal frameworks and difficulty of access to capital to sourcing the right skills and finding the right location and space in which R&D is possible. Cognisant of this fact, Dubai has taken major strides recently in overcoming these obstacles. The UAE Government, the Ministry of Health and Department of Water and Electricity have each examined their strategy to ensure that they are able to support and enable SMEs in the life science sector, so they may contribute to the wider national agenda of driving entrepreneurship. Business communities and ecosystems, such as Dubai Science Park are built on the foundations of empowering the entrepreneurial process, encouraging networking, collaboration and providing innovative office environments to ensure that each business can survive and thrive.

Ultimately, the UAE is focused upon preventing the loss of talent from the UAE to ensure a sustainable economy that remains at the forefront of innovation. To do this, the Government recognises the need to support their own support endeavours with engagement and support from industry peers. It is extremely important that the business community within the life science sector takes ownership of supporting the entrepreneurial process to enable the entire value chain.

Those in positions of leadership must act as innovators and visionaries, giving science entrepreneurs the opportunity to build relationships and learn from industry experts. Junior talent should be encouraged to become not just employees but entrepreneurs, driving the area they specialise in for the benefit of the wider UAE population.

The UAE was built on entrepreneurship and Dubai is flourishing as a community for budding talent. New enterprise will further economic growth and drive Dubai’s innovation-led economy; the country’s leadership must continue to recognise this and provide the correct guidance and support to the future of Dubai’s economy.

Top Tips for Encouraging Entrepreneurship in Life Science SMEs

1) Protect your Customer and Client Data

Data protection is highly sensitive in the healthcare sector. Personal details and medical records must be closely guarded and protected as failing to do so can incur far more serious penalties. Data protection is easily overlooked by small businesses but the costs of getting it wrong can be enormous.

Common mistakes include failing to store sensitive information, such as card details and addresses, separately – and not training staff on the importance of data protection measures. Therefore, it’s worth getting a periodic check-up of how robust your standards are and putting steps in place to safe-guard the data you store.

2) Safeguard your Innovations

Smaller companies often view protecting their intellectual property (IP) a costly distraction, leaving them open to plagiarism and their idea being stolen. It’s important to protect your IP as soon as its developed as there is often a limited window in which to act. If you fail to file for a patent or register your trademark, a competitor may beat you to it – which can put a stop to plans to develop the next big drug, product or system.

3) Chose the Right Environment

The productivity of employees is an SME’s most important asset. Anything that interferes with that productivity, from the wrong office set up to a lab that doesn’t have the space or facilities needed, is a cost to your business. SMEs offering a range of different work areas for employees are best placed to maximise productivity and limit the hidden costs of underperforming staff. Therefore, choosing a location like Dubai Science Park offers SMEs the ability to design their space to purpose, ensuring all facilities directly contribute to productivity.

4) Build you Brand

Studies show that the businesses that grow the fastest are brand-led. Therefore, no matter which area of life sciences you operate in, it is important to consider how you plan to build your brand and position your company in front of your peers, customers and, competitors. A strong brand drives volume and sales so prioritising the brand early on saves time and money. Social media, if done correctly, is a cheap and effective way to reach a wide audience and raise awareness. Consider the look and feel of your brand identity and then adapt it to fit the social platforms that best fit your customer-base.

5) Be Green

There are many financial benefits to being a green business, from waste-cutting, energy-saving measures to financial benefits derived from shared-value customer acquisition and retention, and being an employer of choice. Cut costs by turning off unused machines and ensuring the air conditioning is set at a moderate level and don’t leave lights on in meeting rooms. Alongside the financial benefits, being perceived as a green company is great for brand image and staff recruitment as people want to work for companies that are part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.