Science communication does not work in isolation, connectivity is the key. No one person has all of the information, all of the resources, all of the contacts. Basically, It’s a collaboration between those who want information, those that have it, but things are usually not that simple and the gap between these two can be too vast to cross alone, usually few stepping stones are required and finding the right footing can make or break a project.
We spoke to Myriam Perez, one of the project managers of Art for Science, who saw this gap that needed to be crossed and set about starting a new enterprise to teach people to make the leap, and although they have made the first steps there is still a long way to go, Myriam speaks about the stumbles the company experienced early on in their journey and knowing when to ask for help.
There is a flourishing ecosystem of science communicators, consultants, and associations strengthening their connections to each other to create a thriving network. This was one of our major revelations made thanks to the Art for Science symposium which took place last September in Montpellier, and was the main trigger for us to start our own entrepreneurial project.
Our ambition was to bring together active entrepreneurs from Montpellier and the surrounding areas of France, under a common business structure in order to offer a novel range of services for research institutions, to support citizen inclusion and to account for societal challenges in the field of food and agriculture.
At the start of this movement, we were: one association, one cooperative, and three individual consultants. We decided early on that before setting up our range of services in our first branch, we had better get the specialized advice and support of a business incubator
We identified a business incubator based in Montpellier, which specialized in supporting social innovation entrepreneurship. This incubator had sent out a call for potential projects, to select a new cohort into the incubator. The selection process was in two stages: the first was based on the project documents which we passed. The second stage was an oral presentation where we presented our business model to the board, however, we were told shortly after that we had not made the final cut.
The business model we presented on our project document was quite rough. With no investment linked to the creation of the structure, and very weak charges (co-working space, and the use of our computers). We had named three sources of revenue, these were: “selling” working days through the submission of projects where we would be the leading structure, “selling” working days through the submission of projects where we would be partners and being a service provider directly answering to the command coming from an Institution. The figures were based on the “prices” applied for a researcher working day on H2020 projects.
The selection committee judged that “our market” was very limited, due to the fact that we were targeting research institutions and/or research projects. Another consideration was that the funds available for the type of activities that we were developing are too limited and the processes to access them are long. This gives little solvency and sustainability for the creation of a “business” targeting this type of market. The committee’s thoughts were that research institutions are not in a movement of outsourcing this type of service, which cast further questions onto this part of our economic model. They also commented on the social innovation generated by this new structure, it was perceived as being “indirect” and not very tangible. The jury’s final remark was to say that the new range of services was not clearly identified, it was perceived as a combination of the services provided by different members of the association, and no “unique” product was fairly defined to date.
Workloads of each of us were quite well garnished until this coming summer. Our plan after this disappointment was to arrange a week-long working seminar, during which we would develop more details about our “novel” offer and go deeper on our business plan. Now, in front of this uncertain future, we are all trying to survive the corona’s blast, and we will see what the future has in store for this collectif project.
My name is Myriam Perez, I am engineer in agriculture, and today as part of the Non Conference association, I develop projects aiming to trigger creativity and reflexivity of researchers through the artistic process. Our ambition is to backstop and support researchers under an artistic approach to create symbiosis between science and society.
“Art for Science: unlocking art power for science and research” was held with the aim of bringing together a dynamic community of researchers, practitioners, artists and citizens. This event allowed to discover original artistic methods for research and to share them within the community of researchers and practitioners.