Our Unique pre-MBA programme

Photo: Consortium members during ‘Cultural Psychology’ course 

As a consortium, we strive to develop a model that can be widely deployed within the field of organ-on-chip. To do so, we believe that it is crucial to provide our researchers with a substantial entrepreneurial basis. As a result, we introduced a unique programme that trained our researchers to skilfully operate within the commercial side of science. 

With the help of Amsterdam Business School (ABS), we designed a pre-MBA programme that is tailored to the needs and interests of our researchers. Inspired by a similar programme implemented within the OrganoVIR project, an EU-funded Innovative Training Network (ITN) coordinated by Dasja Pajkrt and Katja Wolthers, the GUTVIBRATIONS pre-MBA programme focuses on developing entrepreneurial and business analytic skills. Through five modules, this novel programme trained 11 of our postdoctoral researchers to become competent scientific entrepreneurs. 

Introducing the five modules of our unique programme 

Managing a business involves identifying, analyzing and developing improvement opportunities where it is necessary, whether it is in the process or the organization itself. The first module of the pre-MBA programme, Process Improvement in Healthcare introduced Lean Six Sigma*, a method to effectively approach problem analysis, problem-solving, and decision-making in a corporate context. Additionally, lectures within this module tackles topics involved in the organization of process involvement including; organizational structure, project management, deployment, and managing resistance.  

*Lean Six Sigma is a structure for organizing improvement activities that incorporates effective approaches to establish a continuous improvement

Aside from continuous improvement, it is also important for our postdocs to be able to assess competition within the industry or market. Why do some innovative products or organizations have advantages over others? What can scientific entrepreneurs do to build and maintain their competitive advantages? The second module, Competitive Strategy, is a foundational course that introduces our postdocs to various approaches to developing competitive strategy, as well as their specific strengths and weaknesses. Throughout this module, the postdocs applied theories and tools they learned to case studies and their organizations. 

They’ve identified opportunities for improvements and our competitors in the industry. The next question is, how can our postdocs ensure their customers and patients that their innovation can provide a compelling service? The third module, Marketing Strategy, trained our postdocs to persuade customers to buy, use, and talk about their innovative products. The course focused on providing analytic and design tools that helped the postdocs execute a suitable marketing strategy. Within this module, topics discussed included; patient-driven marketing, design value propositions and digital healthcare services on the patient journey, purpose-led marketing, and how to build brands in healthcare, brand experience and brand equity. 

After covering the several foundations of becoming an entrepreneur, it is only fitting that the next module focuses on setting up a business plan. The fourth module, Writing a Business Plan, focused on successfully launching a new venture and its underlying business idea. Within this module, our postdocs worked in teams to collect and analyze data to identify and validate an innovative business idea. At the end of the fourth module, their findings were presented in a business pitch and a short final report. 

Recently, our postdocs completed the last module of the pre-MBA programme. The final module, Cultural Psychology, explored how cultures shape the way their minds operate; the way humans think, feel, behave, and construe their sense of self and relationships. Within this module, our postdocs engaged in discussions on topics related to culture and psychology. For the final assignment of this course, our postdocs researched a topic and explored it from the lens of Cultural Psychology. These topics included cultural evolution and implications of globalization, how music and food shape our cultural identities, how to work and teach in multicultural settings, and culture’s role in scientific research. 

What’s next? 

Now that our postdocs have completed the pre-MBA programme, they will continue their training with a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) course. Within this course, our postdocs will be given training in designing a business plan to examine whether our demonstrator is viable and whether a market exists for our demonstrator. The course, which will last two whole days, will explicitly guide our postdocs in making a business plan within the timelines of the GUTVIBRATIONS project to avoid overlooking important business development issues and thus, facilitate commercialization.