Also useful in a corporate environment

Most participants in the MBI Life Sciences & Health program have the necessary experience, but are new to being entrepreneurs. However, John Sijben and John Mensink are in a different position, as they are embedded in a corporate environment. Still, they too learned a great deal through the program.

John Sijben, 42, and John Mensink, 47, who both work at Danone Nutricia, conduct research with a focus on innovations pertaining to medical nutrition. In February 2014, they both enrolled in the MBI Life Sciences & Health program, bringing with them a case pertaining to medical nutrition for patients suffering from a range of illnesses. “Large companies deal with innovation in an entirely different manner than specially organized ventures or limited companies,” says Mensink. “Danone obviously has more facilities and a larger budget for good ideas. But it can be difficult at times to be truly innovative and flexible in a large company. This program has taught us to find a better balance between internal stakeholder management and autonomy.”

Even if you are based in a multinational company with a lot of expertise, you still need external partners, says Sijben. “Through the MBI Life Sciences & Health program, we gained useful contacts for additional funding, enabling us to accelerate our process. And we now have a better understanding of what the market wants.”
During a study trip to Boston arranged through the MBI Life Sciences & Health program, they saw how working in incubators can stimulate innovation. Mensink continues, “If you work on an innovation there, you can use offices and other facilities practically for free. This makes it easy for doctors, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors to meet up.” Sijben adds, “We also noticed how very enterprising young American students and scientists are. Free entrepreneurship is in their genes, as it were, which is very encouraging to see.”

If things go as planned, various activities will be organized for the alumni of the MBI Life Sciences & Health program. Mensink and Sijben want to stay involved in the program’s network, and even contribute as coaches, if required. In this industry, you have to help each other get ahead, they say. Sijben says, “This program can even be beneficial for people in a corporate environment.” Mensink adds, “We have certainly learned a lot. I think you can get more out of it as a team if you assign a researcher and a business person to a venture instead of two researchers.”