“Business Development” can mean different things, depending on the position you find yourself in, the company or agency that hires you, the size and mission of the organization, and any number of other factors.
As the Director of Business Development for a small non-profit research institute, I can tell you that I wear a lot of hats. I thought I’d write a blog about what it is I do on a day-to-day basis – maybe you’ll see something appealing in it, and decide to go that route.
I work with the CEO, the scientists, and the Board of Trustees to lead the development of strategic directions for the Institute. Strategy development is a lot of fun. Working with experiences and talented individuals who all have a personal stake in seeing successful science move forward is quite rewarding. And in the end, activities like this allow me to play a big role in shaping our future research path.
I find funding opportunities. I look for funding opportunities for our research scientists at the NIH, the DOD and other government agencies, philanthropy, and just about anywhere else I can think of. Some days, I consider standing outside with my guitar and a sign that says, “Please support my research institute.” I work with our Chief Development Officer, who is responsible for donor support, in any capacity she needs, which is generally pretty fun and usually means I get to go and talk to folks about the great science we do. I look for individual research opportunities as well as larger opportunities meant for collaborative efforts. I also work with our grants department and our CFO to identify and manage grant submissions.
I am responsible for leading technology transfer activities. This is pretty fun. The scientists work their magic in their individual labs, and I get to take their ideas and run with them. I orchestrate paths to commercialization, often with the help of our Board of Trustees and the scientists themselves.
I build strategic partnerships. Sometimes this means I find academic partners to work with, but more often than not, I’m approaching for-profit entities that are interested in licensing our (IP-protected) technologies and trade secrets. Usually I work with our legal advisors and finance department on such collaborations. In a previous role, I built partnerships with other for-profit entities, and built teams to go after federal contracts for scientific and technical subject matter expert staffing.
I pursue funds for operational costs and staffing. I write grant proposals for capital equipment, and look for funding for things like intern programs, STEM opportunities, fellowships, and training programs for entrepreneurs. I develop the programs with some help from the appropriate scientific or executive staff, do the recruiting and am responsible for the oversight. Most recently, I’ve started working with a spin-off company that my Institute has invested in to write a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) proposal that, if awarded, will bring $1.5M in non-dilutive funds to the start-up.
I run a seminar series, which includes bringing in respected scientists from other institutions, as well as organizing our internal scientists. This is a great way to get the word around, and provide a venue for scientists to organically find new potential collaborations.
I author a newsletter for our staff (~85 people). The newsletter is another way to get folks all on the same page. It contains scientific achievements, new opportunities, and an update on what’s going on in the executive and administrative offices. It’s so easy to put your head down in science and never look up – the newsletter is way to let everyone know what’s going on.
I do a lot of due diligence for various reasons. Sometimes I chase down the “unmet medical needs” for a technology or approach that is emerging from the labs. Sometimes I engage with FDA consultants, legal consultants, or other subject matter experts to define an opportunity space for a given technology. Sometimes, I sit at my computer and so secondary research to support applying the science to a new potential path. Sometimes I run from meeting to meeting, and barely have time to check my email.
If you’ll notice, I work a lot with other people. Being in business development requires a certain type of personality, an ability to make connections between ideas and people, and an internal drive to see it through. A lot of efforts fall flat, but that’s ok. There’s always another opportunity right around the corner.