The Bayes Innovation Fellows

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The Bayes Centre is launching a new programme to encourage early-career academics to explore commercialisation of their research. Bulletin speaks to Miguel Bernabeu, Professor of Computational Medicine at the Usher Institute in the College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine, and Deputy Director of The Bayes Centre, to find out more.

As the University’s Innovation Hub for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, The Bayes Centre is no stranger to collaboration. Whether it’s encouraging multidisciplinary research within the institution or partnering with industry, The Bayes Centre is constantly working to advance data technology and apply it to real-world problems.

One such example is the launch of a new programme, designed to support researchers through the process of commercialising their research. The Bayes Innovation Fellows project will consist of a small cohort of early-career academics who can expect a programme of support for commercialisation. Successful applicants will receive mentoring and bespoke coaching from the Bayes Innovation team and access to research and development opportunities being coordinated by the Bayes Research Group.

“There is incredible research going on and I think academics don’t really get enough exposure and support,” explains Miguel. “We want to provide that and allow academics to embark on the journey of commercialising their research.”

A new model

The innovative staff development model provides colleagues with a unique opportunity to build their awareness of translational projects across different Schools, whilst receiving tailored training and support from experts in the Bayes Centre.

Miguel explains how his own experience of moving to The University of Edinburgh inspired him to champion this project: “When I came to Edinburgh as a Chancellor’s Fellow I didn’t fully understand how I could take some of my own research and advance it towards commercialisation; I failed to really grasp this landscape.

“With this project, we want to make it easier for academics in the early stages of their first tenured appointment to get into this world,” continues Miguel.

Creating a community

Working in partnership with Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation arm, the Bayes Centre has a long history of running programmes to support colleagues in this area. Already well established is the Bayes Innovation pipeline, which includes the Venture Builder Incubator and AI Accelerator programmes.

But how does this new programme differ? Miguel explains: “With the Bayes Innovation Fellowship, there is an opportunity to provide something that has more intensity and to provide a community feel, where we bring people together and the cohort can support each other. We want like-minded colleagues to create an ecosystem of ideas and knowledge exchange.

“Targeting early-career academics is very deliberate because often as people progress through their academic careers, it becomes increasingly more challenging to carve out time for these activities,” he continues.

Miguel is keen to express that this community aspect permeates all the plans of support within the programme. As well as regular in-person training opportunities, there will be monthly cohort meetings where fellows can get to know each other and exchange ideas.

“We want to create a network that is self-sustaining. We want people to stay in touch, and  even come back to tell later cohorts where they are two or three years down the line, to help inspire and support them.”

However, Miguel recognises this is easier said than done: “One of the biggest challenges will be to ensure that we create this sense of community with the cohorts and a strong sense of identity and belonging to a particular group within the University.”

Get involved

The programme is open to all early-career academic colleagues across the University and comes with funding to buy out a proportion of the successful applicants from their home Schools, in order to ring-fence time to participate in the programme. It also provides £5,000 to £10,000 of seed funding to support their stated translational activities.

Miguel is very optimistic about what this project could grow into: “As with anything happening for the first time, there is plenty of excitement, but at the same time, a little bit of anxiety. I hope we will begin to see a shift in the way that this kind of translational work is approached at the University, with an increased focus on these outputs from our research.

“I believe we are doing it at the right time and I’m hoping that we are just pushing on an open door,” he concludes.

To find out more about the Bayes Innovation Fellows, visit the Bayes Centre website.

Photography: MKJ Photography; Paul Dodds