INDIANAPOLIS — A coalition of life sciences organizations and Hoosier universities has launched a mentorship program designed to "add more power to the entrepreneurial environment." BioCrossroads, Indiana’s life sciences initiative, says Accelerating Innovation IN Science, or AXIS, will pair experienced mentors with rising stars in an effort to grow the sector by cultivating serial entrepreneurs. Vanessa Barth, chief scientific officer for BioCrossroads, describes the program as a multi-pronged approach to attract and retain talent, as well as build a sense of community within the life sciences sector.

The program is the result of a strategic partnership involving BioCrossroads, 16 Tech, the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, and the innovation offices of Indiana University, Purdue University, and the University of Notre Dame. 

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Barth said Indiana has a lot of pockets of activity in the coaching and mentoring space, but the new program aims to weave them together to create a single-team mindset.

"If you look at a lot of the innovation ecosystems, be it within the state, globally, nationally, there are two things that people key in on. One is money and the second is talent," said Barth. "Right now, when you start to talk with other individuals and organizations, the order in which these items are brought up are starting to reverse. So there’s a really big emphasis on identifying appropriate talent to drive entrepreneurship, to drive company formation, that then impacts and diverse state, global and local economies."

The partners have launched a website at which individuals can sign up to become mentors or mentees. Barth says the goal is to harness the diverse sets of experiences from the mentors to create a mentoring team. Focusing on the talent, the program will serve as a matchmaker to connect talent with mentors who have had some of the experiences the talent is facing, along with others who could provide different perspectives.

Barth says AXIS is based on a successful model from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Venture Mentoring Service. 

"We really keyed in on this program for two reasons: one, the construct around team mentoring and two, the value system around creating a trusting environment that’s free from conflict so that you remove baggage from those conversations that take place between mentors and mentees of individuals either trying to sell (or) individuals trying to seek their next role within an organization. The idea is, again, focus on the talent, create that interwoven community within the state across the ongoing partners. I think what really brought everybody to the table was a single-team mentality."

BioCrossroads says there are currently 23 mentors and four mentees participating in the program. Barth says, long-term, the partners hope to grow the program so there is a continuing wait list of participants both wanting to be mentors and mentees. "I think that will speak to how attractive the program is, the quality of the program, and the increase of what I would say would be volume of individuals willing to give back."

Barth says Indiana has a lot of pockets of activity in the coaching and mentoring space, but the new program aims to weave them together to create a single-team mindset.

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