2017 'Ask Industry Anything' event for researchers

1 February 2018


On 28 November 2017, BioMelbourne Network again ran the wildly popular "Ask Industry Anything" event for early- and mid-career researchers wanting to know more about engaging with industry.

Recognising that research organisations want scientists to have more exposure to the expectations of industry, and that industry wants greater access to emerging research talent, the BioMelbourne Network team put 100+ young researchers together with 14 leaders of industry to allow them to ask ... anything! *

For a second time, VIIN provided the opportunity to ten mid- and early-career scientists from our contributing organisations to participate in roundtable discussions and networking with these industry representatives.

VIIN's participants at the workshop offered these insights following their conversations with industry experts:

About collaborating with industry

I was there to identify opportunities to bridge the gap between academia and industry, such as grant opportunities (e.g. Development and Linkage grants), how to start collaborative work and consulting, how to build research-based track records with industry, and how to involve industry more in our university's courses.  The overall conclusion I drew with regard to the gap between industry and academia is that many of the large biotech companies do most of their R&D overseas: the representatives of these companies at the event were nonetheless really helpful, truthful and easy to talk to. One of the exceptions is our local CSL which does perform significant research here in Australia and meeting Dr Lorna Meldrum Seqirus (CSL) was a real highlight of the event, as was meeting with Dr Vern Bowles (CSO, Hatchtech), an amazing researcher who obtained Venture Capitalist funding to start his company.

About job-seeking in industry

Dr Rebecca Tunstall gave a lot of valuable advice on how to transition from academia into industry and how to interview for industry jobs. She highlighted that the soft skills we learn from our PhD are much more important than the hard skills or techniques we know.  She elaborated about her job managing clinical trials and I learnt more about several industry positions I did not know much about before - including the clinical research associate and medical science liaison roles.
I learnt how variable the options are for academic scientists trying to move to an industry position.  While it appeared almost impossible to get into some areas without previous experience, other [types of work] were quite open.
There was some good advice on how to go about approaching industry.  For example, sometimes it might be helpful to approach a recruiter who is specialised in the area of work you want to move into.  They may help you identify entry level positions to aim for, in order to get the necessary industry experience. A move to industry can sometimes include a (big) step back and also a pay cut, but could be worthwhile.
Sell your strategic thinking capabilities and soft skills as much as your technical science skills.

About the workshop itself

Thanks so much it was a fantastic night and very informative. All of the speakers were chosen well, they were open and ready to answer any questions.
Most on my table were interested in the requirements for working in industry, cadetships, the status of employment in industry and pathways to employment in industry. Given the popularity of this line of questioning, it might be worthwhile splitting this evening into two events, such as 'Careers in Industry' and 'Working with Industry'.
I found the experience very valuable and I really enjoyed all parts of it, the panel discussion, question time and the networking after that!  My suggestion for the next event would be to have smaller groups or longer question time at a given table.
Great experience, thank you for having me! The networking aspect after the event was good, I was able to make some valuable contacts with industry professionals for our PhD program and potential workshops for students.

The event was a great experience and definitely gave me insight into non-academic career alternatives for PhD graduates. I think this experience should definitely be offered to researchers again next year.


Speakers in 2017 included:

Dr Vern Bowles, CEO, Hatchtech

Dr Megan Baldwin, CEO and Managing Director, Opthea

Paul Brennan, CEO, PolyNovo

Mrs Lusia Guthrie, Chairman Clever Culture Systems AG, Experienced CEO and Industry Expert

Dr Matt Harris, CEO, Clarity Pharmaceuticals

Dr Sacha Dopheide, CEO at Planet Innovation’s Lumos Diagnostics

Dr Lorna Meldrum Seqirus VP Commercial Operations Asia/Pacific

Dr Catherine Osborne, General Manager, Crux Biolab

Dr Sara Prickett, CEO, Aravax

Dr Elaine Saunders, Managing Director, Blamey Saunders Hears

Dr Mark Sullivan, CEO, Medicines Development for Global Health

Dr Rebecca Tunstall, Head of Study Management, GSK Australia

Dr Adam Wardell, Head of Strategy, Innovation and BD&L, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Australia

Ms Karin Innes – Senior Associate, FB Rice

For more information about the event: http://biomelbourne.org/event/bioworkshop-ask-industry-anything/

* Almost anything ...!  For expressions of interest from VIIN members who may like to attend similar events in 2018, please email info@viin.org.au.


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