I grew up in a town called Keynsham, between Bristol and Bath in the South West of England. It was a suburban town near two totally different cities. I went to the local school which was deemed to be a good state comprehensive which would nurture students to be academically good. I spent most of my free time doing my homework, training to be a gymnast, acting, non-stop reading and hanging out with my extensive extended family. As a teenager, I desperately wanted to stay inside a nice safe bubble of school and gymnastics, and I have never enjoyed staying up past 10pm! I've always had a fire in my belly telling me that we can be better and we can do more - and over the years that has transitioned into a firm belief that if we want to see positive change we must proactively go out and get it.
I studied Chemical Physics at the University of Bristol where I spent 8 years, culminating in a degree and PhD. I left the lab immediately after my PhD, I had never felt like such a misplaced failure in my life. The day of my graduation I cried tears of devastation at the fact that I no longer knew myself, I felt ill prepared and afraid of the world that faced me. I wanted to be a positive force in the world, but I knew it would never be as a research chemist in an academic environment, I knew that I would never feel confident enough to make any sort of change within those confines. In fact, my career path was aided by an unlikely temp job which led to a role as an innovation co-ordinator, I watched a number of innovative companies grow and thrive and it was through micro observations of many different individuals that showed me that making my mark on this world was something that could be done by starting and growing a new type of business.
At Interactive Scientific Ltd (iSci) we produce award winning, beautiful, science learning and research experiences, that connect the world around us with the invisible one that lies at the nano and micro scale. Nano simbox is the first product that we have designed with scaling in mind. But it is the "why" rather than the "what" which is most important to me. Most importantly no-one should ever be made to feel that they are not "science-y" enough to engage with scientific content or conversation. We are all impacted by the scientific world, whether it be climate change, health care, transport, nutrition or many other topics of interest. The populous should be engaged at a certain level of scientific literacy because otherwise they cannot be a part of solving the major challenges of the 21st century. Our job at iSci is to lower the fear factor and increase confidence so that this can be achieved. Those who are engaged in research should not be doing it independently of those who they impact.
I have been leading iSci since we hired our first employee and we have grown the team around us to approximately 10 people, which is still growing month on month. We are about to launch our first app (keep an eye on our website to find out more) and seeing that come to life through the hard work of a passionate team is an amazing feeling!
I have known about Innovate UK for a long time, as I have been involved in business support and funding for innovative businesses since 2007. As a company we were funded through a couple of innovate UK funding streams in order to show the feasibility of our product, but the Women in Innovation application process was the best application form that I ever had to fill out! It cared about leadership qualities and a vision for a future and gave me an opportunity to reflect on what my priorities are for our business.
My top 3 tips for female entrepreneurs are:
- Act with authenticity - believe in your inner voice, if something doesn't feel right it probably isn't so speak up. Mentors can really help with this so I strongly advise yourself one.
- Be aware that you are facing a challenge - it is easy to close our eyes to micro-aggressions and unconscious bias against women, but they are there. If you open your eyes to it and face it as a challenge to be overcome - you not only change things for the better for yourself but you can also start to make small but important changes for people around you. You will also prove that you do have the strength and vision to make a change. If you are lucky enough to have not felt excluded as a woman then be aware that other women do struggle in some environments and your support for them is a valuable thing.
- Rest and recuperate - figure out what you need to do to recharge your batteries and be uncompromising about it. I need to have time by myself, read books, get outside with my extended family and do gymnastics and yoga!
Becky & Innovate UK:
Becky has just been honoured as one of the 15 winners of Innovate UK's 2016 Women in Innovation awards, a series of awards dedicated to addressing the disproportionately low numbers of women entrepreneurs in the UK. Here, over a series of 15 posts we'll meet the inspiring innovators and entrepreneurs that Innovate UK is celebrating, each of whom will receive a tailored business support package, expert business mentor and £50,000 to help them reach their full potential.
Dr. Ruth McKernan CBE and Chief Executive of Innovate UK says: 'From fully autonomous drone software to affordable solar power technology and even a digital education portal which engages school children with the molecular world, the calibre of ideas is an eye-opening view into the talent and vision of the UK's female entrepreneurs. It is very clear that harnessing the talent of women entrepreneurs could significantly enhance UK economic growth. I am delighted that we are taking action; supporting and funding female entrepreneurs to help them succeed and inspire other women to come forward, apply for funding and turn their ideas into successful business.'
If you have an innovation or business idea and are looking for support then visit www.innovateuk.gov.uk for further information - go for it!
You can follow Innovate UK on Twitter at @innovateuk or subscribe to their YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/InnovateUK.