The Centre of Biotechnology and Microbiology, University of Peshawar recently revealed that its second batch of Bio-Entrepreneurship course has successfully concluded. The course ended with a Demo Day which included startup presentations from the final year biotech students.
It has been two years since the course has begun and is led by Dr Faisal Khan, Director of the Institute of Integrative Biosciences, CECOS University. He is one of the visiting professors at the University of Peshawar.
Dr Faisal Khan holds a Masters and a doctorate in systems biology from the University of Oxford. He studied Strategy and Innovation at the Saïd Business School at Oxford as well. Last year the Bio-Entrepreneurship course led to 14 startups, all of which were ready for investment. The number has increased by 50 percent this year and 21 successful startups passed the institute. Dr Khan said:
We really want to fill this city with startups. Biotech is a great sector to nurture in Peshawar, and this course is part of a concerted effort to seed the biotech industry here.
The entrepreneurial course targets the biotech students, providing them with the necessary skills required to promote research and its benefits to the Pakistani bioengineering market. While other engineering startups tend to promote business solutions to common problems, biotech engineering can have far greater benefits for the common man. When biotech entrepreneurship does kick in, it will help in solving pressing local issues and will create job opportunities as well.
The course is divided into two sections. The first one is an academic overview of innovation while the second one jumps to an experimental and practical phase requiring students to learn the techniques of building a startup, related to bioengineering, by actually working on one.
Majority of the winning startups consisted of ideas targeting to solve our power and energy issues. The top three startups were:
- ElectroMarvel – offering a device powered by bacterial cells to solve the power concerns.
- BioVolt – a merged solution between biology and engineering principles to make chargers for our gadgets.
- BioLamp – which made use of a bioluminescent bacteria to compensate for power shortage.
Other interesting ideas included:
- Alpine – which will help protect the Chiru (Himalayan Ibex) by producing fine shahtoosh wool using the common lamb.
- BioInk – presenting a safe alternative to chemical dyes.
- Bacterial-Cellulose – which was found a way to save forests and natural ecosystem by producing cellulose from bacteria.
- Plastic-Wreckers – offering a solution to plastic pollution using worms.
- CultureHub – which offered to create a library of cells and strains for the local industry.
- BioLumen – a living alarm for farmers against crop disease using plants that glow when infected.
The panel of judges for the second batch’s Demo Day included stakeholders from the government, academia and the private sector. The pitch session made it clear that the students are eager to step up and solve the common problems in our country with innovative solutions.
Dr Khan encouraged the students to take advantage of the opportunities and facilities available to them. He even asked the students to apply for mentorship in a local business incubator and find a proper way to realise their ideas.
Amir Zeb, an official of the provincial Directorate of Science and Technology, said:
Its really encouraging to see the creativity and energy of the students being used for the benefit of our province. Government is always looking to support tangible products that can have a broader impact and I encourage every one of you to come forward and make a case.
The chief guest, Professor Dr. Yasin Iqbal, distributed the prizes amongst the best startup ideas and thanked all the judges and government officials who took out time for the Demo Day. He said:
In the West, students are encouraged to come up with new ideas; in the East, we generally discourage entrepreneurship due to the risks involved and are not given enough exposure. But I am impressed with the encouraging environment here, despite the fact that they were competing against each other.