A 2-Part Conversation with SCBIO’s Erin Ford – Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of our Conversation with SCBIO’s Erin Ford, head over here to get caught up. When we left off, Erin had shared about the strategic focus on developing top talent in South Carolina’s life sciences industry and attracting companies in the field to put down roots in our state. Read on for more SCBIO and life sciences industry insights from Erin!

What do you see happening inside Life Sciences companies—particularly in the space of human-centered design/design thinking or innovation in general that you think other industries could take a page from?

Among the traits we are seeing is a strong commitment to R&D and innovation across all levels of firms… an entrepreneurial spirit that rewards employees and organizations for making diverse voices heard… investment in leading edge technologies and tools like AI to accelerate profitable growth… and a passion for working together to help an industry succeed rather than fighting to keep success at their own address. Truly, we are seeing this rising tide lifting all boats in the SC life sciences industry.

While COVID has impacted all of us and our ability to gather and network, what do you recommend for people to become more connected and tuned into this important industry?

SCBIO has to wear many hats, and high among those is that of storytellers-in-charge. There are tremendous success stories, talented scientists, rapidly growing organizations, diverse industry segments and amazing inventors and clinicians… we have to work hard every day to unearth those stories and make sure they are shared with the industry and the world. We’re making progress. Secondly, we have to share the incredible opportunity that life sciences represent for SC and its citizens at all levels – from children in their early years of schooling to parents, teachers, academic advisors, job training organizations, educators and more – including our own General Assembly which controls funding that can take life sciences to another level here.

A big area of work for us is in Meetings & events, which as you can appreciate, were turned upside down this past year. We attended your most recent Annual Event (bravo on that!) which was virtual, and we thought so well done. Tell us about how you pivoted and, if possible, what were the silver linings? How did going virtual help further the mission in, perhaps, some unanticipated ways?

When COVID struck, as did many others, we initially planned to delay our conference from fall to spring while keeping it virtual. Shortly thereafter, we began planning for a hybrid event – part in-person, part virtual to accommodate those concerned about gathering in groups. We finally opted to go entirely virtual, as you know. So, we really ended up planning our conference and negotiating aspects of it (hotel room blocks, meeting facilities, speakers, etc.) 3 or 4 times… even as we researched the best tools for us to implement a virtual conference. Our SCBIO team – led by conference chair Caroline Brown of MUSC and co-chair Karen Davison of Charleston Regional Development Alliance – did a great job overall in putting together a record-setting conference that actually became a revenue generator for us. The learnings from the virtual conference helped us take dozens of other events before, during and after the conference virtual – and we see a role for both in-person and virtual events as part of our future from here.

As we see our community steadily emerging from underneath the weight of the pandemic, what are you most hopeful about, Erin? For our state, our communities, our business environment, our families?

America and South Carolina are resilient, innovative, forward-looking and diverse. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, politics, social unrest and more, the DNA of America has always been to come together and achieve great things and I am confident that we will do so again. After every dark night comes a magnificent sunrise.

By the way, who is the first person you are going to go hug when you have the chance??

I cheated already… my son and my husband!  But I am looking forward to many more hugs to come, sooner rather than later!


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