What makes someone an innovator? I doubt that many of us set out deliberately to be pioneers but perhaps we share a mindset. We don't see limitations - obstacles are there to get over, under or round. One of those obstacles is that intangible - confidence! Let's face it, we all have times when we lack confidence and the differentiator is learning how to quell the fear and nervousness to allow us to perform at our best.
I have worked as an entrepreneur for many years and when Innovate UK's infocus women in innovation competition was announced it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Was I nervous at the prospect of entering - yes of course! But you have to try in order to succeed.
Fiona is pictured within The Biohub at Alderley Park in Cheshire, where her lab is located. Photograph by Amelia Troubridge as part of Innovate UK's #infocus women in innovation campaign, an initiative to create diverse role models for women in STEM.
There are so many female innovator role models from the last century, from those who achieved political change for women to those who broke professional boundaries and many of whom contributed significantly to our social status, health and well-being. However if I am forced to choose, my one role model will always be my mother, who as an Indian woman born in the 1920s was fiercely independent and broke with so many traditions. Her resilience, determination and work ethic remain inspirational to me and I hope through me, to my daughters as well.
So I did try and am proud that I succeeded in being selected as a finalist in the infocus women in innovation competition. As a result I have been helped as an individual with networking and mentoring which in turn is helping my business in some instances by subtly by changing my mindset or by giving me the impetus and confidence to put something in to practice. The finalists are drawn from a diverse range of industries providing us with the opportunity to learn from our very different experiences.
The competition has provided a number of unexpected benefits one of which is being featured in the Getty Images photographic exhibition, for which it was a privilege to be selected. As a scientist my thought processes are based on structure and logic and what I discovered was how different the mindset is of a photographer like Amelia Troughbridge. Just see the range of stunning photographs she has taken of the finalists to understand this. I wonder if she sees the world differently from me - 4D rather than 3D or maybe space vs. structure? Did I enjoy my day with Amelia and her team - I think so though I was quite awe-struck at the time! But there is no doubt I am delighted with the outcome. Thanks to WhatsApp my family in India were able to share the experience seeing an image of me with my brother, standing next to my photograph in the Getty Images Gallery!
Support from Innovate UK through this competition and other grants is important to Absynth's work to develop vaccines to prevent bacterial infections. The R&D we are doing is truly innovative and therefore our greatest challenge is to succeed against the odds. I remind myself often that "success is failure turned inside out" (John Greenleaf Whittler from Don't Quit) and that in a world facing the "catastrophic threat" of antibiotic resistance (as stated by England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies), our company has the potential to play an important role.
My message to other female entrepreneurs who have taken or are contemplating taking the leap in to an innovative role is 'go for it'!!
To see the rest of the #infocus women in innovation photography series, shot by Amelia Troubridge in partnership with Innovate UK and Getty Images, visit: http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/collaboration/boards/DPwzhXTL606QygeKCaWd0g
If you're an entrepreneur or innovator, visit the Innovate UK website to find out more about upcoming funding opportunities. www.gov.uk/government/organisations/innovate-uk