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November 2017 News Beat Feature Story
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Flipping the Switch: Igniting vibrancy in our ecosystem 

 

Life Science Washington President & CEO Dr. Leslie Alexandre introduces association’s new strategic plan.

 

 

 

 

What is the Life Science Washington strategic plan?

 

Our strategic plan is a re-commitment to our core values and a road map for achieving our mission: “To stimulate life science innovation, job creation, and ecosystem vibrancy across Washington state through engagement, collaboration, promotion and advocacy.” It was informed by hundreds of valuable conversations my staff and I had with our members, life science executives, human resource professionals, educators and public officials over the past year. These individuals provided critical insight on how we can ensure our industry thrives in Washington state.

 

 

Why did Life Science Washington embark on a new strategic plan?

 

Those of you who attended our 2017 Life Science Summit heard me speak about key findings from reports produced by TEConomy Partners on behalf of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Life Sciences and Global Health and the Washington State Department of Commerce.

 

These reports surfaced critical issues that must be addressed for life science companies to flourish in our state. They were a call to action. One that must be met head on if Washington is to assume its rightful place among the country’s leading states for life science innovation and job creation.

 

 

What are Life Science Washington’s new priorities?

 

Life Science Washington’s number one priority is, and always will be, the success of our members! We know that the programs, services, events, connections and advocacy we provide to you – not to mention some incredible purchasing discounts! – are essential to your success. We are committed to maintaining and strengthening these valuable resources.

 

But we believe – and many of you have affirmed – that the strength and vibrancy of our life science ecosystem is just as important to member success as the other benefits we provide. Therefore, as broadly shared challenges in our ecosystem are identified, it is our responsibility to engage and lead our community in their solution.

 

The new strategic plan tackles two of our ecosystem’s most pressing challenges: 1) recruiting, developing and retaining the talent needed to meet the fundamental short- and long-term workforce needs of our life science companies and research institutes; and 2) ensuring Washington’s life science entrepreneurs continue to have access to the educational, economic, and other resources crucial to their success. Elevating the visibility and stature of Washington’s existing and emerging life science clusters is also essential if our industry is to regain its place among Washington’s leading industry sectors.

 

 

What are the goals of the plan and how do you plan to achieve them?

 

Entrepreneurship & Start-ups

 

First, we must ensure Washington’s life science entrepreneurs continue to have access to the mentoring and resources they require to start and grow their companies.

 

Over the past several years, hundreds of young biotech, med tech, digital health and other life science companies have received commercialization assistance from LSW in the form of one-on-one consulting, more formal team-based mentoring from seasoned entrepreneurs, access to seed capital, and exposure to strategic investors.

 

In April of 2016, LSW received a 2-year, $1.8M grant from the Life Science Discovery Fund (LSDF) to further the development of a supportive and sustainable ecosystem for life science entrepreneurs throughout Washington. Without new sources of funding, when the grant concludes next spring, we will be unable to continue the exciting new programs and services made possible through its funding. To ensure access to diverse sources of sustainability funding, including funding not typically available to trade associations, Life Science Washington has launched a new nonprofit organization, the Life Science Washington Institute (LSWI)

 

LSWI will be led by Dr. Patricia Beckmann, who currently leads our Commercialization efforts at LSW. LSWI will offer business mentoring, SBIR/STTR grant assistance, health economics workshops and entrepreneurship education. Institute staff are also developing an expansive online marketplace that will provide startups with a single access point for resources within Washington state to help grow their business, including listings for law firms, laboratory space, and other service providers. So long as the necessary funding can be secured, the Institute will become the new home for all Life Science Washington commercialization assistance programs focused on entrepreneurs and start-up companies. Visit the Life Science Washington Institute website

 

Talent Recruitment & Workforce Development

 

We must also ensure life science companies have access to the pool of talent and the workforce training programs they require to locate and grow in Washington state.

 

The most recent TEConomy study reported challenges well known to HR leaders throughout our community: rising competition in key occupations and skills areas; difficulty finding qualified candidates for key positions; and challenges recruiting from out of state. In addition, our colleges and universities are not on track to train enough workers in many of our primary life science jobs at the associate and bachelor degree levels – in other words, supply is lagging demand.

 

As President & CEO, I am personally committed to leading a new workforce development effort in partnership with our Human Resources Group. We are going to work with Washington life science employers to recruit talent from outside the state, support them in meeting employee development needs, begin to address critical life science skill shortages, and connect industry to higher education students and educators. At BIO 2018 in Boston, we intend to launch a focused PR campaign that will both shine a light on our incredible life science assets, and highlight Washington state as a great place to live, work and play.

 

Engagement & Advocacy

 

Elevating the visibility and stature of Washington’s existing and emerging life science clusters is fundamental to our collective success in achieving ecosystem vibrancy.

 

There was a time when most Washingtonians, at least those in and around Puget Sound, recognized biotechnology and medical device companies as important contributors to our economy, and the source of many life-saving medical breakthroughs. There was regional pride in our industry, and robust public investment through programs like the state’s Life Science Discovery Fund.

 

Today, in an era of lightning speed technological innovation, and the overwhelming presence of juggernaut cloud computing and IT infrastructure companies, our life science industry has become almost invisible. We need to regain our seat at the table of public discourse and policy making. This goes beyond legislative lobbying in Olympia. Our members need to participate on non-profit boards, university committees and business advisory groups statewide. We need to educate policy makers about the intrinsic and irreplaceable value of life science companies in a way that will make them natural champions on our behalf. 

 

 

What is needed for success?

 

Building and sustaining a vibrant life science ecosystem in Washington state is going to take work by all of us. Life Science Washington will lead these new initiatives by connecting, convening, promoting and advocating on your behalf. We cannot, however, replace you. It is your expertise that will inform the tactical implementation of our plan strategies and your financial support that will hasten their accomplishment. Most importantly, it is your voices that count with elected officials and public policy makers and your voices that must be heard. 

 

 

What part can you play?

 

  • Volunteer to help with your time, expertise and financial commitment.
  • Ensure your HR leader is participating in the LSW HR Group, the epicenter of the talent recruitment and workforce development initiative.
  • Assist in curriculum development at our colleges and universities.
  • Offer to speak to students about career opportunities in industry.
  • Let us know if you have internship or work-study positions at your organization so we can connect talented Washington students to these valuable educational and career opportunities.
  • Educate your elected representatives about what your company—and our industry—is doing and why it matters.
  • Influence policy outcomes by writing letters, hosting roundtables with elected officials and speaking to legislative committees in Olympia.
  • Communicate regularly with your state legislators on issues that matter to your organization and encourage your colleagues to do so as well.
  • Reach out to LSWI if you have a start-up idea that needs funding or business planning.

 

These are just a few of the ways you can directly impact the outcome of the new plan.  Undoubtedly you can think of others and we encourage your sharing them with us. Your ideas and suggestions—and most of all your engagement to bring them about—are what will bring life to the new plan and help ensure our collective success.  We’re looking forward to working with you!

 

 

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