Emma Perfect, Business Development Manager (Episode 31) | Emma is bringing her start-up mindset to the research world
Beginning with biosensors
Emma currently works at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh supporting researchers in health and social care. However, her story begins with a PhD in plant-fungal interactions. Her knowledge of fungi landed her a job with a small biotech company as their first and only scientist. She was tasked with developing glowing fungi which could be used for biosensors.
“So when I turned up the first thing they gave me was a big stack of patents. I don’t think I’d ever read a patent before. And then they said, go order this stuff, you’ll find the purchase order over here. In the university environment we weren’t exposed to any of that. It was a brave new world.”
The ups and downs of business
Over time the company grew and evolved and she became chief scientist then ultimately CEO as they explored opportunities for detection technologies in dentistry and the oil and gas industry. After 20 years in this world and many iterations it became apparent that the business wasn’t sustainable and had to close.
Reflecting on this time Emma says;
“It was amazing. I had the best job in the world and I loved it. But working for a small business can be difficult. And it became increasingly difficult when we didn’t make enough money. So we had to close that business after many years of it running.”
Seeking intellectual stimulation
After closing the company down Emma wanted to move into a world where she could ‘use her brain again’. This led her to look for opportunities in the university sector.
“We were looking at one particular kind of molecule. I think I knew everybody in the world who was interested in this particular molecule and my world had got quite small. I just wanted to do something a bit different. I wanted to use my brain again and learn something new.”
Emma now helps researchers build partnerships and secure resources to help develop their research into real world interventions. In the healthcare world this includes building relationships with clinicians and patient groups as well as companies.
Skills for success
With all of her exeprience she feels that there is often too much empahsis on the science/technical aspects of building a spin-out company, and not enough emphasis on the business skills.
“It’s all very well starting up lots of businesses, but are there really enough people to be good CEOs? I see companies here being spun out with lots of technical work but ultimately, you need to bring money in. I do wonder if there’s enough good sales and business development people. They are really important to the health of the business.”
Find out more
- Connect with Emma on LinkedIn
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