Encouraging diversity in the next generation of scientists

During the FY2020/1 financial year, the Syncona Foundation entered into a partnership with Generating Genius, a UK-based charity which supports low-income students across the UK in obtaining places in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects. Generating Genius will receive £100,000 a year from the Foundation, with this providing five students with scholarships to go to university, as well as covering their living expenses whilst there. We are incredibly proud of this new relationship, with the sponsored scheme named the David Twumasi Syncona Foundation Scholarship, after the Syncona team member who introduced Generating Genius to us. Please see below an interview with David, in which he provides an overview of our partnership with Generating Genius, as well as his own reflections on the importance of diversity in the workplace.

Tell us about Generating Genius and where it fits into Syncona’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative?

Generating Genius focuses on helping people from low income households, predominantly from ethnic minorities, to succeed and achieve their full potential in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.

Syncona collaborates with organisations like Generating Genius to improve the number of underrepresented minorities in the scientific and commerce communities at all levels. For example, the Syncona Foundation has announced funding for five successful candidates to study STEM degrees at university over the next three years. The collaboration between Syncona and the charity is built upon shared goals and values, and most importantly the ambition to improve diversity in STEM. The Syncona Foundation is proud to be Generating Genius's largest scholarship donor. Through this funding financial pressures will be alleviated, allowing students to focus on their degrees. The aim is to allow some of the best and brightest minds from ethnic minorities to succeed and become part of the STEM community.

Tell us how Syncona and Generating Genius plan to work together, and what are some of the specific actions Syncona is seeking to take and why?

This partnership encourages all employees to participate as advocates, mentors or buddies to give Generating Genius candidates career advice and more. Further support is given through networking, insight workshops and potential internship opportunities within the Syncona portfolio.

Successful candidates participating in the David Twumasi Syncona Foundation Scholarship will be given the opportunity to apply to continue further study through Syncona’s creation of PhD scholarships facilitated by a second initiative, the Windsor Fellowship. These PhDs include a six month internship at Syncona which will equip successful candidates with tools to secure their first job in industry and widen their knowledge of the opportunities available to them.

Through training sessions and seminars, employees are being educated on the issues of anti-racism and privilege. The aim is to work together on developing solutions with minority ethnic employees; to improve awareness of the issues which can contribute to this underrepresentation of ethnic minorities to address the issue.

How do you see the relationship with Generating Genius evolving over time?

My hope is for the size of the scholarship offered by the Syncona Foundation to grow in both value and the number of candidates that it supports. From the success of the partnership I envisage that more students could potentially forge careers in the science and venture capital space, and hopefully within Syncona. Syncona offers an invaluable insight into early stage companies, especially with its array of knowledge which the team are keen to share.

Why do you think a diverse workforce is so important, and what does this project mean to you?

Having varied experiences creates a better collaborative space and increases chances of success. Different perspectives enhance viewpoints on subjects, which allow considerations that may not have been given thought. For that reason, I believe it is paramount for workforces to be as diverse as possible.

Being a black man, I am within the underrepresented minorities which Syncona’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative aims to address. For this reason, I am proud to have been a part of this project in encouraging minority ethnics into STEM subjects. Having done a Bioscience degree before embarking on accounting, I understand some of the challenges in encouraging minorities into STEM degrees. I hope collaborations such as this will drive change across the scientific and venture capital spaces, from the opportunities that a Syncona mentorship can provide, such as work experience and a helping hand in making good decisions for career development.

The Syncona family has been more than supportive in creating and participating in initiatives which work
with and around the David Twumasi Syncona Foundation Scholarship such as Fast Futures to improve the number of underrepresented minorities and backgrounds in the workplace. This work not only helps underrepresented minorities but people who have had fewer opportunities throughout society. For me this underpins what this project means to me, providing everyone of all ethnicities with equal opportunities.

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