Four Keys to a Healthy Innovation Cluster in Westchester

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At our recent Virtual Roundtable: Building the Westchester Biotech Cluster, Steve Wray, VP and Director, Regional Economics and Labor at Econsult Solutions, shared four keys to developing a healthy innovation cluster. Click for Recording

“Westchester County can view itself as being at the center of the largest biotech/biopharma cluster in the world, which is the Northeast United States. That’s an incredible geographic opportunity.”
— Steve Wray, VP and Director, Regional Economics and Labor Econsult Solutions

The Four Keys:

  • Research Assets: The region must have a strong research presence alongside access to ample talent.

  • Innovation Culture: A strong start-up culture requires significant entrepreneurial support resources and investment.

  • Place: Successful clusters are located in amenity-rich environments with established lab space and transportation infrastructures.

  • Collaboration: An overall attitude of positive engagement is active across organizations, institutions, and government.

Wray emphasizes the essential requirement for local and regional government support that prioritizes the growth of innovative capabilities. His insights on the meaningful growth of a life science ecosystem flow from work in Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, drawing on experiences from Boston, Baltimore, and Silicon Valley.

The discussion was joined by Philippe Salphati, President & CEO of AYA Consulting in France, who is shepherding Westchester Biotech Project Europe.

“We’re not starting from scratch in Westchester. With profound life science resources already growing here, now is the time to look to diverse clusters for lessons learned.”
— Joanne Gere, Executive Director, Westchester Biotech Project

Cluster building is a multi-tiered, multi-year initiative, requiring the combined resources and collaborative efforts of numerous individuals and organizations. However, the resulting supportive life science infrastructure lays an enduring foundation for the future. In alignment with our mission, we will continue to look to other clusters for lessons learned during times of directed growth.

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About Steve Wray:
Mr. Wray leads collaborative teams focused on regional economic competitiveness and innovation policy. He assists public, private, and non-profit sectors with talent development, infrastructure, and governance issues. As an internationally recognized cluster development expert and speaker, he translates complicated issues and concepts to diverse audiences.  



Alliance Partner My Green Lab: Chemistry Made Safer and More Sustainable

Guest writer: Erika Daley, Program Manager, My Green Lab

Do you remember your first semester of organic chemistry? Have you ever thought about the environmental impact of the work you did in those labs?

Perhaps you working in an organic chemistry lab, or are teaching organic chemistry right now – have you thought about the impact of your experiments?  What if we could create lab spaces that were safer, more cost-effective, and had a reduced impact on the environment?

A new resource: A Guide to Green Chemistry Experiments for Undergraduate Organic Chemistry Labs is available for free. It includes:

  • 10 ‘drop-in’ experiment packages for undergraduate organic chemistry teaching labs
  • Greener alternative experiment(s) 
  • Traditional teaching experiment
  • TA guide
  • Example quiz questions

The substantial introduction section in the guide applies to all teaching and research laboratories. This includes greening common laboratory techniques, solvent and reagent substitution guides, ‘Green Chemistry 101’, and an explanation of the EH&S safety ranking system used within the guide. 

My Green Lab is a 501c3 non-profit with a mission to create a culture of sustainability through science. We envision a world in which all of the life-saving drug discoveries and cutting-edge materials that chemists design in the world around us are made in a way that follows the principle of ‘do no harm’. 

The guide was developed in partnership with Beyond Benign, a 501c3 non-profit focused on green chemistry education, and with support from Millipore Sigma. To learn more about the guide, watch the webinar we gave with Beyond Benign.

We hope you find this guide to be a useful, enlightening resource! For questions or inquiries please contact info@mygreenlab.org.

From Lab to Market: An Intergenerational Discussion

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We recently hosted From Lab to Market: An Intergenerational Discussion with Judith Sheft, Associate Vice President of Technology Development at New Jersey Institute of Technology. This webinar was a collaboration with curiousSCIENCEwriters, Young Women in Bio, and the Westchester Biotech Project focused on inspiring, educating, and providing advice for high schoolers heading into STEM careers.

Akila Saravanan, Editor-in-Chief of curiousSCIENCEwriters, hosted.
Click for her Blog post

Click for Our Podcast Recording

The Westchester Biotech Project and curiousSCIENCEwriters provide emerging pre-collegiate science students with inspiration and opportunities for collaborative communication. They encourage those interested to seek out the advisement of experts, in order to network and build a foundation of conceptual structure to draw upon in future years.
— Erin Colfax, Science Educator: Morristown High School / Summer STEM Director: College of Saint Elizabeth

Are You an Inventor, or Are You an Entrepreneur?

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We hosted Russell Thomas, CEO of NIRvana Sciences, for a webinar tailored to inventors considering making a business out of their scientific discovery. This was a part of our Commercialization A-Z web series and was recorded for the benefit of the community.

Click for More and Recording

Examples were given for the types of personalities and skills needed in a new venture, noting along the way that management teams and investment approaches should be carefully considered. While the technology may have potential in the market, the people surrounding it will ultimately determine its commercial success.

Each year you see a few technologies so compelling that they are pulled into the market regardless of management, but for the other 95% it is the people that make the difference.
— Russell Thomas, CEO, NIRvana Sciences

“Do people bet on the jockey (management), or do people bet on the horse (technology),” asked Russell Thomas early on. “Each year you see a few technologies so compelling that they are pulled into the market regardless of management, but for the other 95% it is the people that make the difference.”

Are You an Inventor, or Are You an Entrepreneur? asked for introspective approaches by inventors to identify which roles in the new venture process they can handle and which ones they will need help with.

Mr. Thomas gave examples of the likely roles an inventor will play in a startup, such as supporting further development of a technology to de-risk it commercially or acting as a CSO. Realistically, more often than not an inventor will need to identify a CEO or COO with extensive entrepreneurial experience to drive the company and bring in additional support. Laid out were common approaches startup CEOs take along with the personality traits and skills required to successfully manage the position.

“The skills sets between inventing and being an entrepreneur are substantially different, and it is very rare that an individual overlaps with both of those worlds,” he says. “Many people are solely inventors and not entrepreneurs,” he stated in the spirit of honest introspection backed by his experience.

Beginning a new company is a complex and risky endeavor one should not assume they can handle on their own. Bringing together a competent team is critical, and whether or not your team understands the complexities and can proactively address them will determine if your technology bears fruit commercially.

Reported by Christopher Kinzel

Christopher Kinzel, Associate for Communication, is a biochemist with a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) in Molecular Biosciences. He has a research and technology transfer background and is using his experience in business development and communications.