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Pushing the revolving door

People are at the heart of innovation. Effective knowledge exchange between academia and industry can be strengthened as much by the movement of people between sectors as by the movement of ideas. 

This mobility can help build mutual understanding, trust and confidence between organisations leading to successful and sustainable collaborations.

In this series of case studies, we have brought together ten stories of scientists and engineers whose careers have spanned academia and industry. Their motivations to change careers are varied, from the desire to explore new interests to lifestyle choices. What is clear is that when moving between industry and academia these researchers have maintained strong links with their past sector, or even implemented a ‘braided’ career path, simultaneously holding academic and industrial positions.

Throughout their careers, they have remained inspired by the application of research to ‘real world problems’ and their transitions have helped them achieve this.

Many of the ten successful individuals featured in this collection describe the difficulties they faced when they moved between academia and industry. While some result from understandable differences in culture, others, in particular the perceived lesser level of recognition given to industrial outputs in academia, are barriers which can and should be avoided.

These case studies illustrate the potential for scientists to work across sectors, while keeping excellent, innovative research at the core of their professional interest. Such careers should be considered not only normal but celebrated as integral to the translation of research into social and economic benefits.

  • Dr Matthew Aylett

    Dr Matthew Aylett, Royal Society Research Fellow, The University of Edinburgh and Chief Scientific Officer, CereProc

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  • Professor Nicky Best

    Professor Nicky Best, Head, Statistical Innovation Group, GSK

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  • Dr Vinton G Cerf

    Dr Vinton G Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google

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  • Professor Steve Evans

    Professor Steve Evans, Director of Research for Industrial Sustainability, University of Cambridge and Director, CSEng Ventures Ltd


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  • Professor Tim Foster

    Professor Tim Foster, Professor of Food Structure, The University of Nottingham


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  • Professor Melissa Hanna-Brown

    Professor Melissa Hanna-Brown, Technology & Innovation Lead (UK/EU and Analytical Lead), Pfizer, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Visiting Full Professor, University of Warwick


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  • Karen Holland

    Karen Holland, CEO, XCAM Ltd and Director, Scientific Instruments Ltd


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  • Professor Steve Rannard

    Professor Steve Rannard, Professor, The University of Liverpool and Co-founder, Tandem Nano Ltd


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  • Professor Katherine Smart

    Professor Katherine Smart, Chief Brewer, AB InBev


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  • Dr Lincoln Wallen

    Dr Lincoln Wallen, Chief Technology Officer, Dreamworks Animation and Chief Executive Officer, DWA NOVA LLC

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