What do researchers do? Career profiles of doctoral entrepreneurs
This collection of 40 narratives demonstrates the way in which researchers have used skills gained during doctoral training to develop careers as entrepreneurs. The stories also highlight the wider impact of doctoral entrepreneurs in a range of sectors.
Dr Mary Chadwick, Director, Prime Timers
Mary runs her own social enterprise and says that when setting up your own business having the idea is not enough. It is not what you want to sell that is important it is what people want to buy. I've learnt this over life, it's not about you it's about the customer!
Dr Emma Heathcote-James, Director, Spotty Dog Productions and The Little Soap Company
Emma runs Spotty Dog Productions and The Little Soap Company. She says she loves the fact that while others are terrified of the insecurity of losing their jobs, she feels more secure than most even though she's working for herself.
Dr Rebecca Steinitz, Writer-Editor-Consultant
Rebecca describes herself as a writer-editor-consultant, although 75% of her time is spent working for one organisation as a consultant in local public high schools. She says one thing that has been challenging about consulting is that you always have to be on the look out for more work, so there is some long term instability.
Dr Tim Willis
Tim runs his own business developing accessibility software. He thinks it's quite hard to stop once you've got started (with your own business), because you gather momentum and all of these ideas and prospects come out of the woodwork.
Dr David Goulson, Head of School, University of Stirling
David runs the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. He says the doctorate enabled him to develop skills in writing and presenting information. These latter skills have been particularly useful in the Trust, as it is about communicating with people - giving talks and presentations, and being able to adapt scientific language to talk to non scientists.
Dr Nick Gostick, Incubation Manager, BioCity Nottingham Ltd
Now working at Nottingham BioCity Nick previously set up Scientific Solutions, a wastewater treatment consultancy where he enjoyed and valued being responsible for his own success and his own career.
Dr Tim Hart, Chief Executive Officer, Zyoxel Ltd
Tim runs Zyoxel, a university spin-out which is commercialising micro bioreactor technology and loves the excitement and risk associated with running a business
Dr John Okyere, Founder and Chief Scientist, CrosGen Ltd
John runs Crossgen which makes tools for gene expression. He says that explaining a new idea to someone in the commercial sector can be difficult. Often they say ‘no’ because they don’t understand it. This can be helped with effective communication.
Dr Andy Sutton, Chief Executive Officer, Companadia Ltd
Andy has been involved in a few business start ups and feels it is not something you ever lose the appetite for! 'You stand and fall by the decisions you make, it's great not having to do everything by committee.'
Dr Madhuri Warren, Managing Director, Pathology Diagnostics Ltd
Madhuri loves the independence having her own business has brought her and the fact that she can determine how to grow and resource the business. In terms of applying the skills picked up during her doctorate, she uses the scientific skills all the time, especially those associated with experimental design and scientific strategy.
Dr Trudi Deakin, Managing Director, X-PERT Health Community Interest Company (CIC)
Trudi runs X-PERT Health CIC, a health sector training company. She says the skills and knowledge developed throughout the doctorate are used on a daily basis. However there has been a steep learning curve to develop business skills such as sales, marketing and managing cash flow.
Dr Alex Griekspoor, Chief Executive Officer, Mekentosj BV
Alex decided to set up his business, an independent software vendor, after initially trialling it during his final year as a doctoral researcher.
Dr Caron King, Chief Executive Officer, Kingswood Plus Ltd
Caron runs Kingswood, a change and performance improvement consultancy. She would say to others, to focus on the skills that your research has given you, and not just the knowledge. There are many parallels between consulting and the process of being a doctoral researcher.
Dr Jenny Koenig, Science Education Consultant
Jenny is a science education consultant. She feels it is useful to know that there are other women doing similar things to her, particularly in the area of science. Just having other people there and knowing that they are going through the same thing has been a tremendous source of strength.
Dr Joanne Whitacker, Intellectual Property Manager, Loughborough University
Joanne runs Favio, a company that manufactures an innovative backless bra. At doctoral study level she liked that you were in control of your own destiny and your own learning. You could choose your path and you would get out what you put in.
Dr Arnab Basu, Chief Executive Officer, Kromek
As CEO of Kromek Arnab feels the technical side of his doctorate is of less importance than other skills he learnt during that period: the discipline to finish things, the need to create your own plan, to drive your own plan, and to be focused but creative.
Dr Barrie Hayes-Gill, Research Director, Monica Healthcare
Barrie is the Research Director at Monica Healthcare, a university spin-out applying wireless technology to healthcare. He feels that his doctoral studies were very useful to him in fostering independence, and an aptitude to seek out answers to questions on his own and developed his capacity for critical analysis.
Dr Robin Henderson, Managing Director, MY Consultants Ltd
Having previously worked in academia Robin now works full time as a consultant delivering a range of projects where he enjoys the freedom of managing himself.
Dr Kate Ho, Managing Director, Interface 3
Kate runs Interface 3: a consultancy specialising in the development of multi touch interfaces. She went on a course entitled the ‘Enterprisers programme' which was run for a week for doctoral students covering aspects such as marketing, sales skills etc and would recommend that future entrepreneurs look around their universities to identify commercial opportunities and funding.
Dr Steve Howdle, Professor of Chemistry, University of Nottingham
Steve runs his own business, Critical Pharmaceuticals. He says developing contacts has been extremely important in developing the business, pitching successfully to a wide range of people is vital. The doctorate teaches you to think on your feet and laterally.
Dr Mark Hughes, Director, mch consulting
Mark runs mch consulting: a consultancy for the not for profit sector. He says a key challenge is that he is responsible for all aspects of the company and is constantly having to watch his own back. Again though, the experience of his doctorate helps in this regard.
Dr Neil Jennings, Director, Neil Jennings Associates Community Interest Company
Neil runs the Student Switch Off Campaign. Whilst studying for his doctorate he was considering options for his future career. Climate change was getting a lot of coverage in the media and he decided that this was his primary motivation for setting up his enterprise, namely a need to raise awareness of the issue.
Dr Steve Jones, Managing Director/Prinicipal Patent Attorney, Adamson Jones IP Ltd
Steve runs Adamson Jones: an intellectual property and patent company. He says there have been many challenges in starting up on his own. He was fortunate enough to acquire plenty of business, and that resulted in greater challenges like employing people, and finding the time to work on the business rather than in the business.
Dr Andy Phillips
Andy completed his doctorate in materials science and eventually decided to do an MBA to enable him to get the full picture of how a business works and marry this with the engineering that he already knew. Since then he has set up a number of different businesses.
Dr Max Robinson, Director and Consultant, Kromek
Max runs his own company providing high tech consultancy to the ceramics industry. His doctorate provided him with skills and experience in writing technically demanding concepts clearly and succinctly. He feels this part of doctoral study is so important, because it is about selling your ideas and convincing people that there is a gap for your research.
Dr Nathan Ryder, Freelance Skills Trainer and Consultant, Nathan Ryder
As a freelance training consultant Nathan says being freelance you have to make sure you keep networking, it's really important to build your reputation and get yourself known.
Dr Brian Tanner, Professor of Physics and Dean of Knowledge Transfer, Durham University
Brian Tanner is Dean of Technology Transfer at Durham University and the founder of a number of spin-out companies. He has enjoyed the challenge of starting technology businesses as in creating gainful employment for scores of other people, he has done something which has had a large impact around the world.
Dr Dave Filipović-Carter, Director (Facilitator & Trainer) and Associate Lecturer, Education-Training Ltd and Open University
Now a training consultant, Dave feels the doctorate gave him a huge amount of confidence and the process of finishing something so challenging, navigating supervisors, managing himself and his time taught him a lot about how he now manages his work
Dr Barrie Hopson, Portfolio Careerist
Barrie describes himself as being a 'Portfolio careerist' with autonomy and independence as his main values. He learnt a great deal from his university experiences, which helped him to develop his entrepreneurial career - not least of which was learning to write books, as they are always a great marketing tool and networking device.
Dr Bill Law, School Counsellor and then Lecturer, Hounslow Education Authority, and then the University of Reading
Bill realised that he'd been living a freelance life even while he was working, people didn't call the Polytechnic, they called him at home. He wasn't trying to set up a business, but the transition from employment to self-employment was practically seamless.
Dr Alex Linley, Founding Director, Centre of Applied Positive Psychology Ltd
Creating something that enables other people to grow and develop has been really enjoyable. Having the autonomy to decide what I want to do every day has been excellent too.
Dr Kenneth Mostern
Kenneth runs his own business conducting elections on behalf of labour unions. He manages between 18 and 24 elections a year and would put his success down to a combination of having the time to figure out what to do next, luck, and being able to identify a gap in the market.
Dr Alexandra Samuel, Director, Social + Interactive Media centre, Emily Carr University
Having completed her doctorate in political history Alexandra is now the CEO of Social Signal, a social media strategy company. Her doctoral study taught her how her clients think and developed her analytical skills
Dr Atul Shah, Chief Executive, Diverse Ethics Ltd
Atul runs a social enterprise called Diverse Ethics which focuses on cultural diversity. He feels that when you are brought up in a very structured textbook oriented method of learning, the doctorate frees you because you are able to develop an independent voice and different method of thinking.
Dr Jo VanEvery, Coaching and Academic Research Development Consultancy
Jo runs a coaching and academic research development consultancy and believes that you should be able to earn a living doing something you love and that most academics love research.