EntreConf 2024 kicked off on 19 June for two days of talks, panel discussions, and networking for the ‘Great minds think differently’ conference at the Watershed, Bristol.

The line up of speakers addressing smart new business thinking included Dr Asel Sartbaeva, Co-Founder and CEO of EnsiliTech, a University of Bath biotech spinout which is removing the need for refrigeration when transporting and storing vaccines.

Dr Sartbaeva’s journey began in 2010 when she took her daughter to be vaccinated. On seeing the vaccine being removed from the fridge she started asking why vaccines needed to be refrigerated and her research began.

Highlighting how an infant dies every 20 seconds in the world from a vaccine preventable disease, Dr Sartbaeva spoke to the audience for her talk on ‘The next big thing’ about her research commercialisation to help address this. She said:

In 2017, alongside my team, we developed a method to stabilise vaccines without refrigeration. It took us years of experiments, but by 2022 we had a breakthrough and spun-out. We created a bespoke protective layer around the biological inside the vaccine, preventing it from spoiling. The work attracted significant attention and investment. In 2023, we received a large contract from the government to create fully thermal stable vaccines. We’re now working with major producers to bring this technology to market.

Keynote speakers Professor Margaret Heffernan and Professor Yasin Rofcanin, both from the School of Management, provided an insightful and topical panel discussion on ‘AI and the Future of Work’, chaired by Gregg Ingham, the media entrepreneur who founded EntreConf and Creative Bath.

Professor Rofcanin, Director of the University of Bath’s Centre for Future Work, said:

Part of my research focus sits on the intersection of organisational behaviour, human resource management and organisational psychology. A specific study we looked at was around the potential dark side of different elements of AI with one of the areas being Algorithmic Governmentality. This involves the use of technology and other devices to control people. Linking the concepts of algorithmic governmentality and space of ethics, we analysed how such technologies come to form part of governing practices in specific contexts. We conclude that datafication and automation have huge implications for human reflexivity and the capacity to enact responsibility in decision making.

Professor Heffernan is an entrepreneur whose TED talks have been seen by over 15 million people and is the author of six books, of which her third book was named one of the most important business books of the decade by the Financial Times. In 2023 Professor Heffernan was inducted into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame for her lasting contribution to management thinking.

Speaking at EnterConf 2024, Professor Heffernan said:

Businesses are sold the concept of AI. Professor’s Rofcanin research is confirming what we knew for 100 years, that if we allow employees more freedom, they will be more proactive. The more companies engage them in decision making the more likely they are to support actively the decision is taken. The reality is when we study great companies that have taken great decisions, we see how they involved more people in the process with multiple perspectives, seeing different opportunities and making intrinsic decisions.

During the conference the shortlisted finalists of the EntreConf 2024 Awards were preannounced, including a wide range of University of Bath nominees from the academic, student, and alumni communities. The awards will take place at the Aerospace Museum in Bristol on 26 September.

The University of Bath School of Management was a content partner and sponsor of EntreConf 2024, with associate partners including SETsquared and Storm Consultancy which was co-founded by two University of Bath graduates.