The Rowett Institute has hosted its first Industry Afternoon – an event to encourage future collaborations between industries and academics.
Invites were extended food and drink, and pharmaceutical companies who have worked with the Rowett in the past as well as an open invite to all local companies that were interested in finding out more about the Institute’s work. Opportunity North East and Food Standards Scotland also informed many of the smaller companies they work with of the event and we were hugely grateful for their help with this.
More than 10 companies attended on the day with academics and partner organisations also present alongside the likes of Associated Seafoods Ltd, Aroma Academy and Ceres Bio Ltd, the crowds gathered as the day began.
First came tours of the state-of-the-art facilities within the Institute. This began with a tour of the Nobel Prize Winning analytical core where visitors were treated to explanations of the impressive machinery and equipment that analyse samples down to the compounds and individual elements – useful for companies in need of detailed analysis or composition data.
Then tour groups were treated to an introduction to the miniature vertical farm in the atrium. Visitors got the chance to taste the growing microgreens and discuss the value of the project in terms of food production.
Next was a visit to the Human Nutrition Unit – first was a tour of the clinical areas where volunteers give their samples, the machines that measure study participants calorie burn (energy expenditure) when resting and their body composition, the medical suite and the bedrooms. Next, attendees were welcomed into the dining room to meet our dietician to hear about the labelling services on offer, as well as discuss the scope for improving the nutritious qualities of recipes and let people test samples from current studies.
Once gathered back in the atrium, there was a brief chance for introductions before everyone was invited through to the seminar room.
Director Prof Jules Griffin welcomed everyone and spoke about the services the analytical core can offer companies, followed by Deputy Director Dr Frank Thies discussing what HNU can also do both in terms of running volunteer studies but also providing access to dieticians, food labelling and calorie counting for meals. Dr Madalina Neacsu then explained about her work reformulating scotch pies with a company using a Business Innovation Voucher. Many of our collaborations do not cost the company the full research and innovation costs (indeed some are free!).
Andrew Pratt, KTP Development Executive from KTP North East, then gave ‘An Introduction to Knowledge Transfer Partnerships’ discussing his organisation’s funding application success rate which captured everyone’s attention – particularly the success rates for these applications! The work by Andrew and his team is invaluable in securing many industry/research collaborative projects.
Then came a series of speed pitches from a small number of Rowett experts - Prof Lora Heisler, Prof Baukje de Roos, Prof Wendy Russell, Dr Alan Walker, Dr Petra Louis and Dr Frank Thies all highlighted companies they have worked with in the past and how their work has evolved through these opportunities. From projects with Kellogg’s, Innocent, Coca-cola, Yakult, Heineken, Lipton, Weetabix Ltd and more, their previous collaborations made an inspiring list.
When asked what people thought of the day, one responded: “The venue, the people, the positioning of the presentations and technical performance which was very industry focussed. Great to have discussions with like-minded individuals.”
Following a productive networking break, three more guest speakers took their turn to present their work and relay their own experiences of research/industry alliances.
Andy Nicholls - Head of Bioimaging, In Vitro/In Vivo Translation at GSK - gave a talk on The Opportunities from Collaboration. Prioritising the benefits for both academics and industry, Andy went through GSK's approach to collaborative working and his own experience from a bioimaging perspective.
Then CEO and Director of GyreOx Ltd Dr Bill Primrose took to the lectern to give a masterclass on Technology Commercialisation with examples from across the academia/industry interface. With over 25 years at the interface between the two, he gave great insights into the process involved in these interactions as well as potential challenges.
Last speaker of the day was Dr Anne McGavigan, Research Development Executive in the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition at the University of Aberdeen. Discussing the plethora of funding opportunities for academic/industry collaboration, her talk emphasised the variety of available funding streams and offered assistance to secure the finances for future collaborations.
Another note of feedback when asked what they least liked about the event: “It would have been helpful to mention the scale of the commercial opportunity and new £sales generated from applying the science to solve a business problem.” When asked to sum up the event, one said: “Interesting content, applicable to the event and tailored to the audience with industry crossover.”
After a closing speech from Director Prof Jules Griffin, there was a chance for further networking before calling it a day. Many useful connections were made and it is hoped these will harbour future research and result in productive outcomes for both sides of the working relationship.
Staff rated the event ‘very good’, speakers rated the event ‘good’ and ‘very good’, and attendees rated it ‘excellent’, ‘very good’ and ‘good’. The key word fed back to us that summed up the event was ‘interesting’.
The Rowett Institute would like to thank all who attended and all who participated in the day. We would also like to thank Scottish Government/RESAS funding that helped sponsor the event. It is hoped that future events with an industry focus will become more than an annual occurrence.