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Innovation and competition: my experience of the STEM awards

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Innovation is key in the pharmaceutical industry as without it further drug developments will be impossible.

This year I entered my first science competition, the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) pharmaceutical challenge of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Awards 2015, and I would like to encourage more students to enter future competitions. While the winning prize fund caught my eye, the challenge itself — providing solutions or technologies to address the challenges of making smaller volumes of product available for patient use in an increasing number of markets worldwide — was also appealing.

I developed my idea by first researching around the question, highlighting and breaking down the key points.  I then checked if I could develop an existing idea or if it was better to create a new one altogether. It took many drafts before I came up with my idea and, once established, I thought of ways to simplify it and make it feasible and efficient.

In the end I came up with a machine that created bespoke capsules that contained different beadlets of various medicines in one matrix, suitable for patients with a polypharmacy regimen. I created an animated presentation of my idea, enabling the judging panel to visualise my proposal. I also asked my university lecturer and family members to read over my idea and asked them for feedback. If I was to do anything differently I would enter the competition as a team as you can support each other.

The late nights I spent working on my idea were worth it when I received an email congratulating me on earning a place as one of five finalists. To get this far in the competition greatly increased my confidence and focus.

Presenting my idea at the GSK head office in front of an experienced panel was nerve-racking and amazing at the same time. And, although I did not win, I have been since thinking of ideas to combat current global challenges.

As tomorrow’s generation we have to think of ways to combat the earth’s many global challenges. Competitions can provide motivation to develop original ideas. Although winning competitions is great, the benefits that you may be able to create in the future to impact on global problems is even greater.

The experience that can be gained from entering a competition are varied — from improving problem-solving skills to developing new technologies.

We do not have a formula for creativity so if you have a good idea test it in a competition and — based on my personal experience — you will never regret it.

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