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A career in business and innovation at STFC – with Amy Plath and Zoe Hill

8 March 2018

It’s pretty obvious from our name, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) that we deliver big science and the technology that underpins it, but did you know STFC is making a big difference to businesses as well?

We work with scientists and engineers to commercialise breakthroughs in the form of start-up companies – and work with business people to help them to access the scientific know-how to take their ideas to the next level.

Here we speak to Amy Plath, Impact and Engagement Manager, and Zoe Hill, an Impact and Engagement Officer and member of Amy’s team. They work within our business and innovations directorate to bring science an innovation together...

Some people might not be aware that business and innovation is an important part of the work that happens at STFC – can you tell us a little about the work that you do?

Zoe: I work in the business and innovation department. We’re focused on bridging the gap between pioneering science and business! We help to communicate the work we do to support businesses by promoting our facilities, sharing success stories, organising business networking events and promoting campaigns to support businesses in their growth.

Amy: I manage a team of four who market the support and facilities access we offer to start-up and early-stage technology businesses. We work closely with the businesses on our campuses to communicate their stories and demonstrate the impact their growth is having on the UK economy.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Amy: This is a tough question because every day is different! Currently I am working on developing new messaging for our business incubation offering and working with a designer to create new marketing collateral that the business development team can use as a tool when out at meetings and events.

I also write marketing plans and strategy documents for our business incubation programmes and work closely with STFC’s partners such as European Space Agency to ensure that we’re delivering what we need to in our contract with them.

Zoe: Most days I help support campaigns for businesses – this can be monitoring social media, drafting campaign plans or organising events. Other days I can be away from my desk, making sure events run smoothly!

You both chose to pursue business degrees – what was it about that route that appealed?

Zoe: At the time of looking at universities and courses, I had no idea what I wanted career-wise. I selected a degree that included a year in industry in the hope that this would give me more of an idea of what I wanted to do.

The work experience was extremely useful and the degree provided me with the theory and knowledge I needed to pursue a marketing career.

I was lucky enough to do my placement year at STFC in a communications role. I was slightly apprehensive that my scientific knowledge wasn’t up to scratch – I hadn’t studied a science subject since GCSEs! However, this didn’t matter as for the work we do it’s good to have a balance of people from science and non-science backgrounds. Then, I returned after graduating and joined the part of STFC which works directly with business.

Amy: I didn't know what I wanted to do career-wise either, but I wanted to study a course at university that would give me options to explore different directions. At the time of choosing universities I also had an interest in languages so I combined business with languages.

During my time in industry I gained a passion for marketing and decided that I wanted to pursue a career in this area.

What was the appeal of working for STFC?

Amy: I joined an intellectual property firm in 2011, and it was during this time that I learnt about the challenges start-ups face and the support offered by government and organisations such as STFC to help these businesses grow. I enjoyed working with entrepreneurs and learning about their new technologies and ideas.

I jumped at the opportunity to work in a job directly supporting these companies at STFC. It’s great to be a part of an exciting scientific environment where some of the UK’s most important scientific breakthroughs have happened (and continue to happen!).

Although I had enjoyed working in intellectual property, I realised that I was more interested in the science and entrepreneurship rather than the legal side of starting a business.

How does your team make a difference to the organisation and the companies you work with?

Amy: Properly marketing a product or service is crucial to any business or organisation. Marketing what we do at STFC demonstrates how we are supporting the UK economy by being globally competitive in science and technology. If we don’t attract new start-up companies into the business incubation programmes for example, then we can’t support their growth and be part of their success story!

Zoe: I agree – it’s really rewarding to support the entrepreneurs, and know that we’re making a difference to the economy as a whole.

What about career progression? Where do you see yourselves in the future?

Amy: This is my first management role and I am enjoying this experience. I would like to continue to climb the ladder in marketing and business development roles. The more experience I am gaining, the more strategic the role is becoming, which is what I enjoy.

Zoe: I would like to become a chartered marketer. Through STFC, I have been very fortunate to study with the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I’ve achieved the ‘Certificate in Professional Marketing’ and I’m currently studying for the next level – ‘Diploma in Professional Marketing’.

What advice would you give to young people wanting a role like yours?

Amy: Get out and about and talk to people! Build up your confidence and more than anything enjoy learning about different experiences. Learn about how other organisations market what they do in a range of industries and keep your passion and enthusiasm alive, as I believe this is crucial in any marketing role – if you can’t get excited about what you are working on, how can others?

Zoe: Gain some valuable work experience – no matter what this might be. And be prepared to go a little off plan; I never expected to be applying my business degree to working at a world-leading science laboratory!

Finally, do you have any personal heroes who have inspired you?

Amy: Lots – entrepreneurs who I have met over the years who don’t give up and have 100% belief in their ideas and innovations.

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