At Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC), fostering a culture where everyone can be themselves is foundational to our business. We believe in embracing diverse perspectives and eschewing hierarchical structures, valuing each team member’s unique contribution to our collective success. Recognising that our greatest asset lies in human capital, we’re committed to nurturing and enhancing this resource. Central to our core values and culture is the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). 

In line with this ethos, we’ve invited one of our partners, Anne Horgan, to share some insights into an initiative she recently launched for the Life Sciences industry. 

I have been in the biotech innovation ecosystem for more years than I care to count, first as a scientist in a small VC-backed start-up, then as a technology transfer professional in a large charity and finally, as a Life Sciences investor. Whilst interconnected, these worlds are different and what has made each one of them interesting and special has been the people, both the men and the women, that I’ve had the privilege to meet along the way.  

As my own professional path has taken tangents and developed, I’ve observed first hand that: 

(i) there remains a scarcity of women in positions of seniority. This holds true for venture capital, biotech, pharma and boards; this has been reported and analysed by several organisations (e.g. BIA’s recent Diversity in Biotech report)

(ii) there are many accomplished women leading in their field, who are generous and keen to make a difference and 

(iii) women seem to enjoy networking in smaller focused groups. 

An investor friend often says “biotech is hard…it takes a village to make a biotech successful”; that is so true! This is why the concept of fostering closer ties within this community, by offering female executives who are in a position to “make things happen,” an opportunity to connect with other accomplished women (such as C-suite executives, investors, Heads of Business Development, and Non-Executive Directors) with whom they collaborate or who form an integral part of their support system, holds great appeal.. It is, in itself, a rather simple and not particularly novel idea. The execution, however, requires some careful thinking and planning. 

As a first step towards building a supportive network around women in the biotech innovation ecosystem, we hosted an intimate gathering of Life Sciences Female Leaders at CIC last month. There were no talks, no panels, no agenda – the aim was to encourage an exchange of ideas and facilitate networking so that new relationships could be forged and different groups would mix. It was all about the people! The prep and hard work paid off and, from the feedback we’ve gathered, the event was very well received. 

The next steps are still in the works but a month on, it’s been heart-warming to see so many connections being made between members of this nascent community, as well as spontaneous offers of help within the network. It’s definitely all about the people! 

From my perspective, it’s been a labour of love to get this event off the ground, with a lot of help from both CIC colleagues and a few trusted friends, and I’ve been asked why I’m doing it and why CIC is behind it.  

At CIC, we invest in knowledge-intensive Life Sciences and Deeptech companies which have a link to the broader Cambridge region (if you don’t know CIC, our website is a good place to start). We care deeply about our ecosystem and are keen to nurture it, spearheading initiatives which are not typically associated with VCs’ activities. My colleagues, Mike, Andrew and Michelle, for example, have led the charge in the creation of Innovate Cambridge, a locally driven initiative to develop a compelling, forward looking vision and strategy to ensure Cambridge remains the leading ecosystem in Europe. The CIC partnership was therefore fully supportive of the concept behind the Life Sciences Female Leaders. 

As for me, I am doing this because I care; I care that there are some brilliant women who may need a helping hand now and then to achieve great things, I care that there should be a support network where one can ask questions or ask for help, I care that there are some fantastic and accomplished female leaders who are generous with their time, advice and mentorship, who deeply believe in “paying it forward” and just need a platform to do so, and finally I care that I can make a difference, however small, to our “biotech village”.