Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module BIOL40420: Innovation and Enterprise in Plant Biotechnology

Department: Biosciences

BIOL40420: Innovation and Enterprise in Plant Biotechnology

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2020/21
Tied to C2K009


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To expose students to innovation challenges, industrial enterprise and entrepreneurship in the field of plant biotechnology.
  • To provide enterprise training and develop students’ enterprise awareness, teamwork, communication and employability skills.
  • To introduce aspects of intellectual property (IP) rights and research dissemination through IP protection and commercialisation.
  • To provide students with experience in financial planning, market research and in the development of business cases in the biotechnology sector
  • To provide experience in critically appraising scientific peer reviewed literature


  • Enterprise development and innovation problem solving
  • Teamwork on real-life problem based innovation challenge
  • Testing ideas against the market including competitor analysis
  • Business feasibility planning and resource planning
  • Introducing methodology such as Value Proposition Design for Innovation Challenge
  • Commercialisation of new technology through existing companies and via spinouts
  • Financial management and planning
  • Legal (IP, regulations), social, political and ethical considerations

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Ability to develop a science based proposition to address a particular challenge in the field of plant biotechnology and to understand its potential application in a commercial context.
  • Demonstrate how to plan for the launch of a new business venture.
  • Demonstrate how to plan for the launch of a new business venture.
  • Describe the key challenges and issues associated with commercialisation of innovation.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the responses and strategies used to overcome these challenges and address issues, risks etc.
  • Demonstrate development of enterprising team working skills, behaviours and attitudes.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to present a commercially viable business concept and the scientific basis of the proposition in Business Plan and oral/video formats.
  • Describe the process and resources required in business planning, particularly start-ups
Key Skills:
  • Strategic thinking and planning of time and resources.
  • Interpretation and understanding of information from relevant sources (scientific publications, lectures, textbooks, online sources).
  • Interpretation and evaluation of scientific, financial and market data.
  • Team building and working, negotiation and consensus building.
  • Science Communication: Presentation of scientific and business ideas to academic and non-academic audiences in oral/video and written formats.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • This module is designed to promote and foster creativity and group enterprising skills building upon the knowledge acquired by students during their undergraduate degrees as well as subject specific knowledge gained through the other modules within the Plant Biotechnology Programme. The students will form groups of “Biotechnology Spin-out companies” from Durham University and are tasked with identifying and researching a feasible innovative Plant Biotechnology-based solution to a real problem/challenge. Groups work together to prepare a business plan (slide deck format) and a presentation/video pitch to a panel of investors. Workshop sessions will introduce the students to various aspects of business and R&D planning (e.g. marketing, finances, intellectual property, regulations), and will provide opportunities for students to develop their presentation skills. The students will individually prepare a detailed R&D plan which will include a review of the feasibility of their proposition based upon published scientific literature. Throughout the module the students are supported by both science (academics) and business mentors (staff and external partners). The taught components of the module are delivered by both academic staff and specialist internal and external professionals.
  • Introductory session, followed by a two week workshop comprised of a mix of lecture/seminars, interactive group work with session leaders and group work (designated tasks). A further two separate workshop sessions will be held prior to submission of summative assessments to review progress and provide feedback on group progress. Self-organised group activities are supported by a minimum of six group/mentor sessions over the duration of the module.
  • Workshops will include lectures (involving both internal and external experts), and interactive group sessions
  • Group work will be supported by regular meetings with allocated science and business mentors
  • Assessment of key skills will comprise the submission of a business case (assessed on a group basis), video presentation and live Q&A session to a panel of experts (assessed on a group basis) and a detailed R&D plan including a feasibility review based upon scientific evidence (assessed on an individual basis)

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Introductory Session 1 3 hours 3
Workshops (includes seminars, lectures, interactive group work and directed group work) 22 2 week block (2 sessions per day) and 2 separate half day sessions 4 hours 88
Mentor/group surgeries 6 Bi-weekly 1 hour 6
Self-organised Group Work 51
Individual work (reading/writing) 51
Panel Assessment 1 1 hour per group 1
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Business Plan (Group Assessment) Slide deck (30 slides and appendices) 40%
Presentation / Q&A Panl (Group Assessment) 25-30 minutes and 20 minutes panel Q&A session 10%
R&D Plan and Scientific Review (Individual Mark) 4000 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessments will comprise: (1) Completion of a Business Model Canvas (2) Practise Group presentations (3) Outline of R&D plan and scientific review

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University