Entrepreneurial Thinking in One Health

July 16, 2021

Innovators flourish in Entrepreneurial Thinking in One Health course

Students bring ingenuity to solving global problems in health care and science, from healthier pregnancies to more efficient cattle sales

The assignment was two-pronged: Think like an entrepreneur in the health sector. Think beyond commercialization.

 Among the ideas developed by students: an app for the visually impaired, software to support the purchase and sale of cattle, and a program to help pregnant women.

The students were enrolled in the Hunter Hub's recent Entrepreneurial Thinking in One Health, the final course in the 2021 One Health Summer Institute.

The Institute consisted of six theme-based courses, open to students from all levels and disciplines, in addition to professionals and adult learners from all over the world. The Entrepreneurial Thinking in One Health course (ETiH) was a unique offering, developed in partnership with the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) – One Health Consortium and One Health at UCalgary.

Entrepreneurial goals

The ETiH course was designed to stimulate early entrepreneurial thinking in the health sector and encouraged participants to look at entrepreneurship through a broader lens, beyond commercialization. Additional learning outcomes included applying entrepreneurial thinking theories and tools to One Health and AMR-related projects, designing innovations that create value, and organizing venture development processes.

“The Entrepreneurial Thinking in One Health Course was incredibly valuable,” said participant Courtney MacDonald. “One of my research projects at W21C involves taking ethnographic information about a system, identifying areas that can be improved, and suggesting opportunities for new innovations or knowledge translation activities.”

In total, topics were dispersed into 20 modules split over 32 hours of content delivery. Participants included undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and professionals from across Alberta and as far away as Ontario, Portugal, Turkey, Rwanda, South Africa and India.

Experts from diverse entrepreneurial backgrounds presented at each module, including Dr. Colin Dalton, co-founder and CTO at Neuraura and assistant professor at UCalgary; David Bocking, president of InnoTraction Solutions Inc.; and Dr. Ian Lewis, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at UCalgary.

“The Entrepreneurial Thinking in One Health course is an integral part of our co-curricular programming, helping creative scientific minds develop their ideas and be more confident in bringing their concepts to life,” said Keri Damen, executive director of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking.

The progress and dedication these entrepreneurs showed in four days is inspirational, and I’m excited to see their solutions effect real change in Alberta and make tangible impact in their communities.

For their final project, participants were split into groups and tasked with developing a solution for a problem of their choosing. Each module throughout the course was designed to support the groups in progressing their ideas, covering topics such as defining value propositions, protecting intellectual property, and how to clearly communicate and effectively pitch their project.

Panel of judges

The course finished with a live pitch presentation, where teams presented their solutions live to a panel of judges. Although a competition-style structure was used, the pitch presentation was designed to be a more friendly, teaching moment.

The top three teams and their solutions were:

  • weAccess: an app that improves online accessibility for visually impaired users
  • Cow-Bay: software to support the purchase and sale of cattle, to reduce the inefficiencies present in the livestock market flow
  • FemMicro: a program to harness the microbiome for healthier pregnancies

“This course has given me tools to identify the value proposition of an idea, to evaluate its feasibility and viability, and to effectively pitch it to an audience,” said MacDonald. “After having worked through a ‘practice idea’ in the workshopping components of the course, I feel much more confident in my abilities to identify and pitch practical venture and innovation opportunities — both in relation to my current project on the prevention of transmission of AMR, as well as in my career in general.”

Systems view

One Health takes a systems view of complex problems and uses a transdisciplinary approach to address problems at the intersection of the environment, people, plants, and animals. The Institute aimed to provide participants an opportunity to explore the concept of One Health and to build on their disciplinary expertise which will enable them to contribute meaningfully to transdisciplinary teams.

“One Health advocates for a transdisciplinary approach to complex problems at the intersection of people, animals, and the environment,” said Michele Anholt, manager, One Health. “The objective is to find sustainable and ethical solutions that improve the health and well-being of people and animals, and that also respect nature and environmental limits.”

“One Health at UCalgary wanted to offer a One Health Summer Institute to enable trainees, faculty members, and working professionals to strengthen the skills necessary to be able to contribute meaningfully to transdisciplinary collaborations,” said Anholt. “Working with the Hunter Hub to offer an Entrepreneurial Thinking in One Health course was a priority for the One Health team. ETiH brings creativity, initiative, and single-mindedness to complex problems.”

Seeing possibilities when faced with complex problems like antimicrobial resistance or microplastic pollution in water supplies, is where great ideas get their start and can help change the world.