As part of our “meet the team” series, this week we feature Gillian Hambley, Interface's Business Engagement Executive for Aberdeenshire.
When did you start at Interface and where did you work before?
I started with Interface at the start of June 2016 (8 months ago!). Previously working as a Business Gateway Adviser at Elevator covering Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
What attracted you to the position?
I loved supporting businesses at Business Gateway; my role focused mainly on start-up businesses and what a feeling it was to see those businesses start! Interface was an exciting new take on supporting businesses. Design and innovation are areas that I’ve always been interest in - when I left school I attended Robert Gordon University to study Design for Industry which had elements of design, development and business. Seeing an opportunity to support businesses with product, service or process development was too exciting to miss and teaming that up with the knowledge and skills across all the Scottish universities and research institutes – what a resource!
What does your role incorporate?
I like to think of myself as a matchmaker. As part of the Business Engagement team, I get the chance to speak to businesses of all sizes, ages and across all sectors. As we know each business will have its own plans, aspirations and troubles, I’ll sit down with these business and work with them to build a possible academic collaboration project which could get them en route to their next steps. As Interface works with all the Scottish universities and research institutions for over a decade, we have strong relationships and understand their strength and interests, meaning that we can quickly identify and reach suitable academics for a range of projects making it easier than ever before for our clients to connect with academia. We’ll even explore possible funding options for the business to see how far the projects could go.
What does a typical day look like?
Every day is different from the businesses I speak to, to the offices that I hot desk in. I hot desk at Elevator, Robert Gordon University and the University of Aberdeen, not to mention the coffee shops for client meetings. My day will usually consist of connecting with business to develop possible collaboration projects, be it over the phone, email or face-to-face. I’ll carry out expertise searches across the Scottish universities for each client’s individual requirements and pull together our final findings once we’ve had confirmation of what the academics could bring to the project.
What do you like most about the role?
My favourite part is when a university comes back to say that they would be interested in working on a project and hearing exactly what skills, experience and excitement they would bring to the table. It’s a great feeling to know that we’ve managed to make that connection between business and academia; that the business could be one step closer to achieving their goal and academics could get their skills and knowledge into industry. The intrigue - not knowing what my day will hold, what my conversations will bring and what I will learn! I could be speaking to a business about a glamorous a new product to take to market or talking about how waste could be reused.
What advice would you give businesses which want to collaborate with academic expertise?
Think about the “what if”! Could working with academia allow your business to get over that hurdle and get to the next stage? Pull on the knowledge and skills that’s available - maybe research has already started in the area you’re questioning or maybe there’s something in a completely different sector that could change the way you work. We can work with you to build a project and quickly open doors to academia and possible collaborations.
What three words sum you up?
Enthusiastic, industrious and creative.
*Gillian will be attending the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards on Tuesday, 21 February, in Edinburgh, along with the Interface Business Engagement team from throughout Scotland. Sign up for this free event here.