"My first degree was in biological sciences. However, because I knew I wanted to do some research, I went on to do a doctorate. This was also because, working in the field of science, I recognised that this would get me increased credibility. I completed my doctorate in environmental biotechnology at the Cranfield Institute of Technology, and my area of research was biological wastewater treatment. I thoroughly enjoyed my research, but was sure that I didn’t want to pursue a research career due to the low pay and temporary contracts you can expect in higher education.
"I got plenty of offers after my doctorate, which was nice to see. However, I decided to join a small business called OMEX Environmental in Lincolnshire as Technical Manager, before leaving in 1993 to set up Scientific Solutions Ltd, an environmental biotechnology company. Scientific Solutions was a small start up, commercialising the knowledge that I gained as part of my doctorate. Customers were mostly large manufacturing operations who wanted to clean up their effluent. Based on technology used to treat sewage, I designed a nutrient mix and matched them to the requirements of a specific company’s effluent. We would also supply pumps to monitor the dose rate. Although we grew very quickly for three years, this reached a plateau, and I realised that things weren’t going much further.
"Scientific Solutions was eventually sold to Norsk Hydro, and I joined the University of Sheffield – as the Sheffield end of the White Rose Biotechnology Consortium. I got very interested in the technology transfer side of things there. During my time there, I helped to set up a number of companies including Celltran Ltd, Adjuvantix Ltd, Plasso Ltd, SupaPlants Ltd, SEAMS Ltd, and Aqua Enviro Ltd. This was all very useful, and relevant experience for my current position as Incubation Manager at Nottingham Biocity. Now, I work with early stage bioscience and life science companies at the very early stages of set up. Often these are spin-outs which I run a number of schemes for, and assist with finding connections for business, amongst other things.
"I realised after selling Scientific Solutions that I hadn’t known what I’d needed to know about intellectual property and corporate finance. At the time, I didn’t really appreciate that I didn’t know about it – despite having been through one of the most industrially aware universities! The ‘what next?’ should have been, go out and license some IP and raise some finance – but I had no idea how to do that, or that this was even an option. This would have given us somewhere to take the business.
"What I didn’t like about working in a larger company was that other people made important decisions about you and for you. At Scientific Solutions, I enjoyed and valued being responsible for my own success – and my own career. Having spent a significant part of my doctorate on an industrial site, this had given me excellent experience of commercial applications. I did draw a lot directly on the research and technical aspects of my doctorate. My business was based completely around this area. It also gave me the ability to plan and explain science to non-scientists."