Arnab Basu

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.

"I finished my first degree, a BSc, in Calcutta. After that I worked in India in a family business. I then had the opportunity to study and work in the UK in engineering and electronics for five years, and from that had a good offer of studying a doctorate in physics at the University of Durham.

"The doctorate gave me the opportunities to train as an independent researcher and during this time the experience developed my abilities to be self motivated and self guided. Above all the doctorate gave me discipline.

"I am currently the Chief Executive Officer of Kromek. This was formed in 2003, initially to manufacture semi-conductor materials. It has since changed its product specialisation and now produces detectors and semiconductor materials for colour X-ray detection and imaging for a range of markets, including detection for liquid explosives.

"It is an IP rich company with over 60 patents to date. Its products have global applications and the company is highly visible in the press, employing 50 people in the UK and USA, including 11 with doctorates. Kromek has raised considerable private equity funding and has a wide range of shareholders. My current role is to lead the business – to identify opportunities, raise money and manage the business.

"There have been a number of turning points in my career such as the opportunity to start my company when I had planned to enter investment banking, and the route I chose gave me a big initial salary cut. I particularly enjoy the whole challenge of creating and growing this business, building something from a sheet of paper, a business that positively affects people’s lives. It is all exciting. To some extent my doctorate experience has supported my current role. The technical knowledge side has been useful – I can understand technical arguments, however the technical side of my doctorate work is of less importance than other skills I learned during that work. My role is not day-to-day management of technical issues, rather the more generic skills I learned during the doctorate have become more important: the discipline to finish things; the need to create your own plan; to drive that plan; and to be focused but creative.

"I regarded my doctorate as a job – I worked from 8.00am to 6.00pm and, although I received good support from my supervisor, I was strongly self-motivated. During this time I did some personal consultancy on behalf of the University, which was also useful.

"There have been many people who have positively influenced my career: my dad; my angel investor; the Professor of Physics at Durham University; and the current Company Chairman. I have been lucky to have crossed paths with so many good people, as you learn from people everyday.

"In terms of general learning related to my business, I have not learned from other courses. I think it important to learn from mistakes, and it is important to learn your own limitations, ‘learning to fly while flying’. Taking risks is an important element in business. Unless and until you take risks it is difficult to make big gains. Other important things are to be innovative, to create, follow and then expand on a vision, have confidence in yourself, and surround yourself with people better than you. Human capital is most important."