Five Tips For Entrepreneurs To Succeed In The Life Sciences Sector

The life sciences industry has benefitted hugely from the growth of startups, contributing to drug development, alternative energy solutions and throughout the value chain.

learn more about Marwan Abdulaziz

By Marwan Abdulaziz

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Dubai is a modern entrepreneurial hub- a place of inspiration, innovation and enterprise. Entrepreneurship acts as a catalyst for a strong, balanced and diversified national economy based on knowledge, ideas and smart design, rather than national resources, which fits into Dubai's overarching vision of being a thriving innovation-led economy.

Entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of wider economic success and a key engine of growth. The life sciences industry has benefitted hugely from the growth of startups, contributing to drug development, alternative energy solutions and throughout the value chain. As a representative of the science sector, I have personally witnessed skilled local talent contributing to the industry in a multitude of areas. Dubai Science Park, for instance, is home to over 280 companies in the life sciences industry, and represents some of the sector's leading companies. Since its inception in 2008, we have witnessed the impressive growth of a number of our companies- these include Alliance Global, which employs more than 80 specialists and runs eight regional offices offering distribution, consulting and product development services to more than 40 quality manufacturers of biomedical technologies. Another example is Holistic International Testing Services, the region's first privately owned laboratory accredited by Dubai Accreditation Center, the UAE body recognized by the International Laboratories Accreditation.

There are certain challenges faced by entrepreneurs and startups across all industries when setting up a business, and this applies to the life sciences sector as well- these range from complex legal frameworks and difficulty of access to capital, to sourcing the right skills and finding the right location and space in which R&D is possible. Cognizant of this fact, Dubai has taken major strides recently in overcoming these obstacles. The UAE Government, the Ministry of Health and the Department of Water and Electricity have each examined their strategy to ensure that they are able to support and enable SMEs in the life sciences sector, so they may contribute to the wider national agenda of driving entrepreneurship. Business communities and ecosystems such as Dubai Science Park are built on the foundations of empowering the entrepreneurial process, encouraging networking and collaboration, and providing innovative office environments to ensure that each business can survive and thrive.

Related: Bootstrapping Startups In Dubai

Ultimately, the UAE is focused upon preventing the loss of talent from the UAE to other nations, thereby ensuring a sustainable economy that remains at the forefront of innovation. To do this, the Government recognizes the need to support their own support endeavors with engagement and support from industry peers. It is extremely important that the business community within the life sciences sector takes ownership of supporting the entrepreneurial process to enable the entire value chain. Those in positions of leadership must act as innovators and visionaries, giving entrepreneurs in this field the opportunity to build relationships and learn from industry experts. Junior talent should be encouraged to become not just employees but entrepreneurs, driving the area they specialize in for the benefit of the wider UAE population.

Here are a few points to remember when building your SME in the life sciences sector:

1. Protect your customer and client data

Data protection is highly sensitive in the healthcare sector. Personal details and medical records must be closely guarded and protected, as failing to do so can incur far more serious penalties. Data protection is easily overlooked by small businesses but the costs of getting it wrong can be enormous.

Common mistakes include failing to store sensitive information, such as card details and addresses separately, and not training staff on the importance of data protection measures. Therefore, it's worth getting a periodic check-up of how robust your standards are and putting steps in place to safeguard the data you store.

2. Safeguard your innovations

Smaller companies often view protecting their intellectual property (IP) as a costly distraction, leaving them open to plagiarism and their ideas being stolen. It's important to protect your IP as soon as it's developed, as there is often a limited window in which to act. If you fail to file for a patent or register your trademark, a competitor may beat you to it– which can put a stop to plans to develop the next big drug, product or system.

Related: Promoting (Innovative) Critical Thinking In The MENA Workplace

3. Choose the right environment

The productivity of employees is an SME's most important asset. Anything that interferes with that productivity, from the wrong office set-up to a lab that doesn't have the space or facilities needed, is a cost to your business. SMEs offering a range of different work areas for employees are best placed to maximize productivity and limit the hidden costs of underperforming staff. Therefore, choosing a location like Dubai Science Park offers SMEs the ability to design their space to purpose, ensuring all facilities directly contribute to productivity.

4. Build your brand

Studies show that the businesses that grow the fastest are brand-led. Therefore, no matter which area of life sciences you operate in, it is important to consider how you plan to build your brand and position your company in front of your peers, customers and, competitors. A strong brand drives volume and sales, so prioritizing the brand early on saves time and money. Social media, if done correctly, is a cheap and effective way to reach a wide audience and raise awareness. Consider the look and feel of your brand identity and then adapt it to fit the social platforms that best fit your customer base.

5. Be green

There are many financial benefits to being a green business, from cutting waste and energy-saving measures to financial benefits derived from shared value customer acquisition and retention, and being an employer of choice. Cut costs by turning off unused machines, ensuring the air conditioning is set at a moderate level, and not leaving lights on in meeting rooms. Alongside the financial benefits, being perceived as a green company is great for the brand image and staff recruitment, as people want to work for companies that are part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Related: Branding Your Company Helps You Attract Better Quality Talent: Seven Steps To Cultivating A Good Employer Image

Marwan Abdulaziz

Executive Director, Dubai Science Park

Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi is the Executive Director of Dubai Science Park (DSP), the region’s first free zone community that serves the entire value chain of the science sector, dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs, SMEs and multinational enterprises in this field. DSP is home to almost 300 companies across life sciences, as well as the energy and environment sectors.

Marwan began his career at DSP as a Sales Manager, before being promoted to Business Development Director. He became Executive Director in 2013. Prior to this role, Marwan was a Business Analyst for DUBAL.

Marwan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas, USA and has completed the Future Leaders Program for UAE nationals in 2007 and Developing General Management Potential from Cranfield University in 2008. He also graduated from a program on general education from the American University of Dubai (AUD) and successfully finished the INSEAD – UAE Consortium for Executive Development Program in September 2015.

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