How the BioHive Can Help Increase Collaboration
The BioHive is a community knowledge network that was just launched as a free and open resource for the regional Biohealth industry. The problem we are here to solve is regional connectivity and collaborative innovation to solving the challenges we face;
The Biohive is a free online community platform for anyone who wishes to seek information about the regional Biohealth industry and connect directly with others in their field or around topics of interest. We launched the BioHive to help fulfill our mission at BioBuzz, which for the past six years has been "to help build a more connected bio-industry in the region". We believe that the industry in Maryland has not yet nearly reached it's potential, and that it will take the power of many working together to get us there.
There is no argument that the Maryland region hosts one of the strongest biohealth ecosystems in the Nation.
After all, we have one of the most highly educated workforce in the world, more than 800 life sciences companies, 70 federal labs, regulatory agencies such as the FDA, top academic, medical and research institutions and a pro-life sciences state government.
Yet, there is an overall sentiment that we can be better. There is a feeling that we just aren't competing on aspects like innovation, commercialization and job creation with regions such as Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, New York/New Jersey and North Carolina.
So what makes a top economic hub?
Let's look at some of the factors that contribute to a strong economic development hub. A few factors that have been studied include;
● A critical mass of public and private knowledge institutions
● A vibrant environment for knowledge creation and transfer*
● Strategic business and financial services
● The ‘connectivity’ which attracts higher value business functions*
● A culture that instills a sense of belonging and giving back
● A concentration of culture, leisure and sport
● Transport hubs
● National and international profiles
●Highly paid jobs – many of which attract regional commuters
These characteristics are often recognized as critical ingredients to enabling vibrant hubs. They are also most often found in cities or metropolises which facilitate a natural density and concentration of these supporting variables. We have most of these covered here in the Maryland region; however, we are lacking a few components which end up having considerable repercussions and limit our potential.
Most importantly in my evaluation is that we don't have a central density. Instead, this is a vast region with multiple economic and knowledge centers including Baltimore, Montgomery County, Frederick, DC & Northern VA which present clear geographic barriers that impede innovation, collaboration and often job opportunities. Maryland's state ranking is near worst in the nation at #49 / 50 in mean travel time to work at 32min. So while employees in other hubs are enjoying a better work-life balance, less stressed by their commute or getting in another hour of productive work time - Marylanders are stuck in a virtual traffic jam that's diminishing our innovation efficiency. This one variable alone, the lack of centralized density, can diminish the value of all of our other assets by throwing off the synergy needed to produce an optimal economic ecosystem.
Our greatest weakness is our greatest strength!
No we don't have a central density in our region, instead we have multiple unique centers with unique cultures and economic assets that they are built on. So instead of a dense, central hub-style ecosystem, I like to view our region as having a Constellation Ecosystem. Several bright stars, all vibrant on their own but when brought together and connected they form a clear picture of something strong and mighty. I think that represents us well and reflects the potential there is in this region to come together in a way that is stronger than all of our parts alone.
What's the Answer?
So, in order for Maryland to become a stronger regional hub for BioHealth, we have to make up for our geographically disconnected and distinguished regional hubs by creating a central nucleus that can bring us together and connect all of our assets. The fact is, the geographic barriers and lack of a centralized critical mass of people and knowledge make connectivity and knowledge creation a major barrier to ever becoming a truly vibrant hub. The more difficult it is to meet with someone new, the less likely it will happen, AND; the less likely you are to be introduced to someone new who could help you. The psychological barrier is much higher for us to make introductions when we have to ask ourselves the question - "I I make this introduction, what are the chances they will meet... or have time to meet since they are both in traffic an hour a day?"
The BioHive will help to connect the minds that are now separated by geography, and enable the opportunistic collisions of ideas with the know-how to commercialize them. By doing so we will also grow a searchable, centralized repository and archive of information, knowledge and data that we will be able to use and learn from for generations to come.
Rich Bendis, Reg Seeto & Phil Schiff offered their support for this same solution in their Baltimore Sun OpEd “Can the Maryland Region become a Top BioHub by 2023?” where they stated;
“We can overcome these challenges by fully embracing the values of collaboration and openness, and recognizing that our goal cannot be realized by industry, academia or government alone. Our strategic plan calls for a concerted effort to ###i
/i###, and to arrange the "ingredients" of our biotech ecosystem together in new and innovative ways. Basically it requires all parties in our region to effectively work together and leverage their knowledge, networks and assets.”
How can I use the BioHive?
The BioHive will make the Maryland region smaller by centralizing all of our knowledge, networks and assets in a collaborative community of experts, professionals, events, workshops, and information where members learn, connect and build their relationships, careers or technologies together. One hub that directs people to the resources they need.
This will be a place for biohealth employees, employers, consultants, entrepreneurs, researchers, post-docs, educators and government to access a repository of experts, education and information.
The "Hive" Concept: Breaking Down Silos
Any regional hub is actually made up of multiple geographic communities as well as many micro-communities arranged around career fields, industries, interests, etc. Each of these communities have their own mission, interests and needs and are currently engaging with their members in their own individual silos. Individually the impact of these micro-communities is limited, but if harness them all together in a fashion that allows them to maintain their independance and focused interests, but also harness the knowledge, best practices and resources of everyone else in the greater community - then every one of them and the regional hub become more powerful.
In the BioHive, our community hives will provide online 'rooms of experts' made of like minded people - but who also have access to the shared knowledge repository of the broader community. We're not trying to create a broad social network - there are plenty of those - this is about bringing focused communities together without all the noise.
We want to foster and continue the conversations that are already happening, and provide development and collaboration opportunities for professionals throughout our region. The BioHive will be an online environment to supplement the existing offline activities that all of our regional communities and organizations are already producing. A place for conversations to live on and relationships to grow.
Solving for the right problems.
The BioHive is crowd-powered, which means that everyone can contribute their own expertise, knowledge, ideas and insights through creating and sharing content or just joining the conversation. US Colonel and @NASA Astronaut, Terry Virts (@AstroTerry), has said that one of the most important lessons learned through his career in space exploration and Aviation was to “listen to the crowd”. The crowd is most often right and will give you insights that no one person or small team could have seen by themselves. Col Virts lived this first hand at NASA where this practice of listening became an important part of their culture. For the leaders in business and government, the economic development professionals and CEO's who help to shape the priorities and policies in any region this can often be a hard lesson to fully embrace. It's often disconnectedness, ego, intense tunnel vision or the loudest voice in the room that wins out over listening.
Our goal with the BioHive is to bring together as many individuals in our region as possible to have discussions, share their ideas, voice their concerns, and then; we listen. We observe trends, capture insights, and identify opportunities. Who knows what we'll learn? What I do know is that we'll have the right data to know that we're solving for the right problems. That means more impact where it's needed most. I also know that we'll have the buy in from many of the people since they will know that the solutions came directly from their input, and they had a say.
Our goal is to create this environment that supports more innovation, education, job creation and economic growth - so there will be tremendous benefit to the commercial businesses in our region. Therefore, we are looking to our industry partners to support this socio-economic asset by sponsoring the many online communities that make-up the BioHive platform. The BioHive program will be operated and managed by the BioBuzz Workforce Foundation, Inc. (501c3) and all proceeds be contributed back to efforts that support a more connected and more efficient regional ecosystem.
In return this program will deliver more opportunity and more value for everyone involved and help our region to become a more productive economic ecosystem.
We encourage you and everyone to be part of our growing knowledge network and contribute your expertise to the vibrancy of this amazing region we call home.
To learn more about the platform and how you can use it to meet your goals please check out our Orientation Guide.
For more information or to get more involved in this program please message Chris Frew at firstname.lastname@example.org
GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK:
Are we missing something? Give us your take on it.
What do you think is needed to make the BioHive successful?
What problem can this solve for you, or can't it?
What would make you want to engage with others in a platform like this?
What resources do you use now to find regional information?
What resources do you use now to connect with others locally in your field?
How often does geography and distance prevent you from attending regional events?
What resources do you use now to participate in thought leadership and engage with others in your field locally?