ECOSCOPE: Engaging the Next Generation of Academic Entrepreneurs

Arjun BaghelaBy Arjun Baghela, Graduate Student, Hancock Lab

I have been a member of UBC’s Ecosystem Services, Commercialization Platforms and Entrepreneurship (ECOSCOPE) since last September. ECOSCOPE is an NSERC-CREATE funded initiative, established in 2015 by Dr. Steven Hallam from the Microbiology and Immunology department. This transdisciplinary training program integrates life science engineering, big data analyses, and entrepreneurship. The highlight of ECOSCOPE is the collaborative network it offers between various UBC academic departments and industry professionals from local biotechnology companies.

ECOSCOPE Trainees at Grouse Mountain for the 2018 Leadership Retreat

If you are like me, exploring a world outside of academia, namely, a career in the biotechnology industry, is very appealing; industry offers a fast-paced scientific environment where one can also delve into the business workings that drive the innovation. Unfortunately, most graduate students have limited opportunities to conduct internships in biotechnology start-ups. ECOSCOPE is UBC’s first training program that tries to bridge the gap between research, training, and innovation within the start-up space by promoting opportunities for graduate students to spend 4-8 months working with founders on research and development projects. This offers a unique opportunity for students to see the start-up experience up close and in real time, while providing a platform for them to launch their own ventures through programs offered by e@UBC. Trainees can expect a challenging, but extremely rewarding, learning experience as they navigate roles and opportunities outside of academia; ECOSCOPE is poised to help them on their way.

Though its primary focus is microbiology, ECOSCOPE has a diverse trainee profile. For instance, Evan Trofimchuk is an MSc student in Dr. Xiaonan Lu’s Food Safety Engineering Lab. Evan decided to join ECOSCOPE for various reasons: to develop his R coding skills and to expand his network outside of his department. Trainees also partake in internship, which allows them to directly contribute to the company’s initial product offering and learn how the company develops a scalable business model. Anupama Sharan, an MSc student co-supervised by Dr. Steven Hallam and Dr. Vikram Yadav in Chemical and Biological Engineering, recently completed an internship at Active AgriScience startup in Abbotsford, BC. One of her main takeaways from the internship experience was her ability to take initiative in everyday activities of the company and make a tangible difference in their operations. Furthermore, Anupama took on many roles and responsibilities in the company, allowing her to develop a diverse and well-rounded skill set that gives her more confidence as she pursues her own entrepreneurial aspirations.

I joined ECOSCOPE to see if a career in business or entrepreneurship would be a good fit for me. My short, but fruitful, time in this program has helped me recognize that it is. This program has given me the wherewithal to think beyond academia and to consider many ideas and entrepreneurial options that I never thought possible before ECOSCOPE. To those students who are straddling the line between academia and industry, and who have a desire to translate research into useful and tangible products and services, I highly recommend ECOSCOPE for you. To learn more, visit:

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