Building an ecosystem for curing cancer
Introducing Dr. Natalie Sampson (PhD) Senior Post-Doctoral Research Fellow and independent group leader at the Department of Urology of the Medical University of Innsbruck. At the start of our interview, I asked, “how does the world work together to find a cure for prostate cancer?” “Science is all about collaboration. There is never one answer to solving cancer” she smiled.
Scientists like Natalie, have been working in ecosystems long before they were being used in business settings to gain an effective competitive edge. The freedom of building a bespoke ecosystem to achieve a successful outcome is not a choice for researchers, it’s a necessity. Besides the transfer of knowledge and ideas, rapid advances in technology have created the need for specialised expertise that, without collaboration, limits the capacity for success in attaining the end goal, in this case – a cure for cancer. In today’s research climate, a successful scientist is not one that tries to do everything, but one who can embrace those that can do what you can’t.
In our interview about building ecosystems for success, Natalie explains how the process of establishing her ecosystem was the starting point to her successful journey and without it, funding, sponsorship and being considered a thought leader would never have happened:
“Scientific research is not linear thinking. Rather, it is like a jigsaw puzzle whereby every piece (of data) is intricately connected to several others and only when complete, and ultimately correctly positioned, do they provide the full picture.
Successful research requires a multitude of experts, alliances, partnerships as well as sponsors. I think it is important to understand that irrespective of the genre, an effective ecosystem develops via a multi-stage and evolutionary process: as the ecosystem develops, so will its design, particularly in the identity of its single components and the intensity of their interactions. This is why when building an ecosystem for success, it is first necessary to define and understand your own needs from an ecosystem. This will enable you to undertake effective networking by helping you maintain your focus on the ecosystem as a whole and lessening the risk of entering collaborations that divert energy from your own needs of the ecosystem.
However, identifying what you can offer the ecosystem is equally as important. Whilst your own “corner of the jigsaw puzzle” may be particularly interesting to you, it is only a component of the whole. Being clear on your skills and purpose allows you to support conversation with a potential new network partner. The art of listening here is key. For example, you may be more important to someone else than they are to you but perhaps only at that moment of time: bi-directionality is not always immediately obvious but often becomes apparent as an ecosystem matures.
A successful ecosystem is driven by a clearly defined and largely static common purpose but is maintained by a series of highly dynamic unisons. These, by nature are intimately linked with your own needs and capabilities and, will undoubtedly change as the ecosystem evolves. Indeed, it is important to appreciate that identifying the right people does not happen overnight. It takes time to build enduring relationships, comprehend the value of each partner and gain trust so that people, often from a different field of expertise, are persuaded to work with you, when they have a choice not to.
It’s a very humbling experience to be part of a successful ecosystem and I am indebted to the countless people that I have worked with over the years, without whom I would not be where I am today.”