Women in Science
Building spin-off companies and collaborating with industry
Interview excerpt: Kylie explains some of the different skills she has needed to collaborate with industry, as well as the benefits of mentoring and increased visibility through winning a prize.
What new skills would you say you've had to learn or build on to do something like this? It does sound quite a shift in approach .
Yes, yeah. Mm. Yes, definitely and on this more applied project, I've got a full time project manager in the group to, who's joined on that project and she was actually a student who first did the work on this and then has carried on and now ended up as the project manager and that's been, she really keeps me on track because I guess as an academic I'm always wanting to go and follow the next exciting idea and sort of, 'oh we can try this, we can try that and, and having her say, “No, actually we have to meet these milestones for the next stage of development and we, you know, we need to keep focused on this.” So I think we, we work together pretty well in, in that sort of way. So, I've had to learn to yeah, sort of to pursue timeframes in a way that perhaps we don't normally in academic research because we're normally, we follow up whatever's most exciting rather necessarily getting something done on the timeframe that we originally intended.
And so learning to make maybe more tough decisions about directing the research than we might have otherwise done. And then a huge amount of learning from talking to Industry people about trying to learn what's actually required out there in the Industrial world. You can sit and read as many academic papers as you like but you don't actually find out what's happening in Industry and it's only through having lots and lots of conversations with people in the Industrial world that you actually find out what's needed or what the challenges really are that doesn't really make it to the academic literature so just having lots of conversations. Building up that sort of little black book of contacts Industry. But, yeah so, a whole new world of networking and Industry contacts, and then sort of putting an economic value on things in the way that we're not used to doing as scientists. So sort of thinking about, yeah, how much is it costing to produce that enzyme which we don't care about so much if we're, just doing a fundamental project that does actually start to matter for an application.
How was it to, you mentioned building up those contacts with, with commercial organisations, did you, was it just a case of google, pick up the phone or were there people to support you?
It's been a whole mixture of things.
Some people we've met at conferences. Some we've met randomly on trains [laughs]. You wouldn't believe it but actually, yes, we have made contacts on trains. Having a conversation overheard on a train [laughs]. So we're pretty careful what we say now [laughs] conversations on trains [laughs].
Some of them through, so we, my team won a prize in the Royal Society of Chemistry's Emerging Technologies competition a few years back and as part of that we had some Industrial mentoring and so some contacts came out of that and then some through Oxford University Innovations contacts. Some through sort of contacts through the Department. It's yeah, been a real mixture actually of just sort of building up those networks wherever we can. But a number of them from conferences or the, the Research Council, the BBSRC, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council they have a number of sort of networks where they bring together academics with Industrial partners and we've met some, some of our Links at those sort of meetings.