SETsquared Blog

SETsquared’s Researcher to Innovator programme (R2I) changed my work as an academic

After my PhD I worked a few years in industry, before taking the plunge into academia. Even though I worked in a research institute before, the change to working for a University was a bit of a culture shock. Suddenly a few more tiers were added to the decision making process and most important the goals of research changed from being applicable and valuable to being publishable.
Luckily I found the R2I course. From the start the people involved in the course showed me that even within a university applied science has a place… A special place, but a place nonetheless. They provided me with the tools and knowledge to find this special place.
R2I taught me how to sell outcomes of research projects to a multitude of audiences and to tailor my proposal and presentation to a specific audience, even if it is the same project. Also by learning the basics of entrepreneurship I feel enabled to push my applied research even further into practice.
During the course, farmer Giles was invented in discussions with the facilitators of the course. I prefer to call them facilitators because they were so obviously happy to help. Honestly, they were so much more: Teachers, experienced experts, serial entrepreneurs, mentors and I probably forgot a few titles. 
Even though no one had experience remotely related to my field, the facilitators helped me build a story around my project. Farmer Giles and Vet Sara were introduced in December 2015. The presentation around these two fictional characters served as a backbone for a workshop and was ample referred to. Since then, farmer Giles and vet Sara have even been invited for a presentation for the government and have been used to explain a vision in various conversations.
Although progression with big grants is slow, with help of farmer Giles and vet Sara, we are now building a consortium and have our eye on an ambitious grant. 
For me personally the course has changed the focus of my work. I am now involved in a centre, run from within the University of Surrey, to bring digital innovation in veterinary science to practice. I have used all the skills I learned in R2I multiple times since the end of the course and have found my special place within the university where I can actually practice applied science (and not just publish on it).