By BioSTL for the St. Louis American | August 2021
For more than a decade, BioSTL has been working to address the inequities in bioscience and innovation in the St. Louis region, and the work has only progressed as the racial uprising across the country in 2019 demanded a renewed effort to address systems of inequities.
BioSTL began building a holistic ecosystem approach starting in 2008, bringing together 81 leaders and practitioners from organizations throughout the community with a goal to increase diversity in the biosciences. Over the years, the non-profit dedicated to building St. Louis’ innovation economy, has continued to learn, build partnerships, and further build on its mission of economic growth in a way that increases equity and reduces economic disparities with new trainings and supports.
For the entire ecosystem to thrive, there must be a systems approach supporting youth and families, as today’s youth will be tomorrow’s innovators. And, for the entire bioscience and innovation ecosystem to be wholly-inclusive and provide an opportunity for all to succeed, BioSTL continues to provide new support through its ecosystem initiatives:
“BioSTL has successfully supported bioscience founders for decades, but there is a glaring gap in the amount of minority founders supported,” said BioSTL Program Manager Lindsey Harrison. “I am excited to launch a new program that will specifically support underrepresented entrepreneurs in STEM. We will also help meet one of the largest challenges facing minority-led startups and provide access to capital to support their business development.”
“By aggregating the STEM programs in one database, we identify STEM gaps that exist throughout the region,” said Kate Polokonis, Interim Executive Director, STEMSTL. “Armed with this information, STEMSTL, as the ecosystem backbone, is positioned to help drive funding and partnerships that will eliminate gaps in informal STEM learning, in an effort to build a system in which all students, regardless of race, geography, or socio-economic status have access to high-quality extracurricular STEM programs.”
“Understanding that diverse and inclusive teams are critical to the future of the bioscience sector, BioSTL is building a bioscience workforce collaborative to foster equitable talent development and deployment efforts through partnerships between academic and training institutions, community organizations, and industry employers,” said Justin Raymundo, Manager of Regional Workforce Strategy, BioSTL. “Through these multi-stakeholder partnerships, community leaders will help build critical infrastructure for an industry-responsive and industry-accountable workforce development platform.”
BioSTL continues to lead this work knowing that there is no real systems change without engaged community partners and continued learning and development. We all must be open and willing to move past what was and what is and embrace change – creating an ecosystem where all have the opportunity to learn, innovate, and succeed.