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Centres for Doctoral Training

Produce highly skilled, talented researchers and future leaders

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Email: Alison@skillfluence.co.uk
Phone: +44 7990 620 644

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Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT’s)

Produce highly skilled, talented researchers and future leaders
Heriot Watt University

PhD Students at Edinburgh Centre for Robotics

The EPSRC CDT call is due in early 2018 and the key role of CDT’s in developing the skills of cohorts of researchers is likely to be stronger than ever before. Skillfluence can help you to build a researcher development programme that will enhance the student experience giving them leadership and transferable skills that align with Vitae’s Researcher Development Framework. We can design and deliver programmes of training and peer to peer learning that are customised specifically for your CDT and area of research. Take a look below at some examples of the workshops and training we’ve delivered to cohorts of researchers.

PhD Cohort Programme

UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology (UKCMSB)

Skillfluence designed a programme of 8 workshops that are delivered to each cohort of students over the course of their PhD. The training complements the standard University of Edinburgh offering providing an enhanced range of training designed specifically for PhD students in the field of synthetic biology. The sessions are responsive to scheduled events and opportunities so students can attend training to learn new skills prior to an event or opportunity and then have a chance to put their learning into practice.

Academic development CDT GCRF

University of Edinburgh Creativity@home

PhD students at UKCSMB will have a wide range of options open to them after their studies and they are likely to choose a diverse range of career pathways. This varied programme of training gives them valuable insight and transferable skills they need to succeed in their future careers. Each workshop is designed specifically for this group of students and is delivered by knowledgeable, experienced facilitators and invited guest.

CDT PhD researchers

Social Media for Researchers Workshop

Workshop Topics include:

  • Working with Others
  • Collaboration and Multidisciplinary Working
  • Commercial Awareness: Working with Industry
  • From Bench to Market
  • The Innovative Researcher
  • Social Media for Researchers
  • Future Leaders
  • Progression Planning for Scientists

Social Media for Researchers Workshop ran in June 2017. 100% of participants said the course was very good or surpassed expectations and everyone felt they would be able to use what they learned in the workshop. We asked what participants gained from the course, comments included:

“Better understanding of how to engage with people online”                                                          “Realise the power and capabilities of social media and that I need to update my Linked in profile!”   “The case studies were really inspirational they really communicate the issues discussed”

The Project Manager attended the training and commentedI thought it was a great day. Since then our new communications manager Marie-Anne has had a meeting of all our social media users and tried to instil some best practice!”

Our recent workshop, Working with Industry was delivered to 25 participants in October 2017. The workshop was jointly delivered by Skillfluence Director, Alison Gray and Dr Ian Archer of the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC). This flexible, combined approach allowed for real world stories and industrial examples to enhance the practical and interactive elements of the course. We worked closely with the Centre Manager to make sure the session was of value to researchers and met the needs of the centre. Lorraine Kerr, Commercial Relations Manager and Denise Hodge, Business Development Manager also used it as an opportunity to take a few minutes each to explain their role and the support available from the university for researchers looking to build relationships and work with industry.

We have a range of more than 20 courses specially designed for researchers that we can customise for specific areas of research using relevant case studies, anecdotes and examples.

EPSRC Creativity@home Initiative

Edinburgh Centre for Robotics

Working closely with Edinburgh Centre for Robotics we designed a 2 day EPSRC creativity@home workshop for their PhD students. The Centre’s main programme is the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Robotics and Autonomous Systems.  Its goal is to train innovation-ready robotics researchers to be part of a multi-disciplinary enterprise. Participants receive broad training to enable them to engage meaningfully with a wide cross-section of the robotics community. Achieving impact with robotics also requires non-technical skills, for example an understanding of technology translation, creativity and entrepreneurial processes.

creativity@home toolkit

Creative Thinking Tools & Techniques

Our aim was to provide PhD researchers with a toolkit for creative thinking and problem solving that they can apply to their research and to consider impact on the wider world. The workshop was fast paced, intellectually stimulating and highly interactive bringing an evidence based approach to generating ideas and design thinking for real world challenges in robotics.

Day 1 was held at Heriot Watt University and started with Professor David Lane setting the scene and providing context on RAS2020 and future opportunities and drivers in robotics. Participants then learned about and had the chance to try core tools and processes for thinking freely and generating ideas on their own and in groups.

Participants said the toolkit of creative thinking techniques gave them a “Structured approach to creativity: good for starting projects, literature reviews, good for project management, good for being exhaustive” and a “set of techniques for developing product/ engineering ideas”

Edinburgh University Centre for Robotics Researchers

Researchers Creating Impact

A key aspect of our training approach is to allow researchers the chance to actually try out what they learn. This increases the impact of the training, making participants much more likely to use these techniques when they are on their own long after the training is over. Our participants agree with one commenting that it was worth taking the time to attend because practice enables you to fully understand the use and reach of these techniques”

Day 2 was focused on teams identifying real problems and then building a creative thinking framework to generate ideas to use research to solve problems. The teams explored big ideas and using a lean canvas worked out ways of applying them in the real world to have a significant impact on society.

Entrepreneurship and innovation creativity@home

Researchers with Lean Canvas

The lean canvas allowed the groups to test whether their ideas might be viable as a business, some of the researchers found this particularly useful “My PhD is sponsored by industry. Entrepreneurs skills certainly help handling communications” and “I can imagine using skills for research but I’m mostly positive about using them for potential business ideas post PhD

The groups worked brilliantly together, bouncing possibilities around and generating some fantastic moonshot ideas. One of the researchers said there was a nice environment created for creativity which is difficult to achieve in a training course context”

At the end of day 2 we looked at how to pitch complex ideas to a non-technical audience.  The teams used the Skillfluence pitching framework to share their new concept by pitching to the whole group and a panel of judges. There were some amazing solutions generated to solve problems ranging from over-crowded cities to managing the intricacies of air traffic control. Our winning team of researchers had identified a methodology and innovation in robotic permaculture initially for use in cities but with wider future applicability.

Of course we had to ask what they thought of the trainers and responses included “both trainers were excellent. Knowledgeable, friendly and approachable and good at presenting the ideas.”

Spin out, start up and entrepreneurship skills

Innovation BioCamp
Researchers and entrepreneurs

Innovation BioCamp 2017

The BioRenewables Development Centre in York contracted Skillfluence to facilitate two, one week residential Innovation Biocamps. This is a European project from BioBase4SME and InterReg designed to support early stage entrepreneurs in the Bioeconomy and enable them to grow. Skillfluence worked with the BDC to co-design the programme, we facilitated the whole week, delivered workshops and coordinated with speakers and mentors. The first Innovation BioCamp ran in July 2017 with 20 delegates.

Delegates benefited from a wide range of workshops delivered by Skillfluence trainers Alison Gray and Kevin Walls. Topics included Lean Startup, Value Proposition, Team and Leadership, Customer Discovery, Innovation and Ideation, Communications Strategy and Pitching to Investors. Skillfluence also facilitated input from expert speakers in finance, regulation, intellectual property, board membership as well as co-ordinating 1-2-1 sessions with mentors, Intellectual Property specialists and peer to peer learning.

Centre for Doctoral training

Innovation BioCamp

We had a very high Net Promoter Score of 83 for the Innovation BioCamp reflecting the success of the whole event. We asked delegates for feedback on the trainers:

“Well prepared and with a fantastic experience to share.” “Excellent interaction throughout the week, very dynamic & accommodating”

“Alison and Kev are fabulous! Amazing presenters, highly engaging and made the overall experience so enjoyable. They have so much experience + knowledge to share they were a great support.”

Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre

Graduate Leadership Programme
Centre for Doctoral Training CDT

SAIC Graduate Leadership Programme

Skillfluence designed an 18 month programme of workshops and industry visits to develop the leadership skills of this cohort of aquaculture graduates working in industry. This varied schedule of training gives them valuable insight into their own strengths and weaknesses and the transferable skills they need to succeed in their future careers.

A combination of workshops, a learning journal, CPD portfolio and coaching are used to give participants the chance to learn from each other, reflect and develop long term skills for career progression.


Presenting your science (to scientists & non-scientists)

Scottish Universities Life Science Association (SULSA)
Centre for Doctoral Training CDT

SULSA Researcher Development

This workshop for PhD students gave them to chance to learn how to speak clearly and vividly about their work and why it matters, in ways that can engage varied audiences, especially those outside their own field.   The session was fast paced, interactive and informal to make sure participants feel comfortable taking part and trying out their presentation skills in small groups. Participants were given a series of hands on exercises to explore a range of flexible and engaging techniques to deliver their message.

One of the outcomes of the session was that students learned how to respond to the question “What do you do” by developing and practising their own elevator pitch. The workshop used specific examples relevant to the PhD students areas of research and required them to work together to design and deliver a final group pitch.

Testimonials from participants include:

“Great that it was so interactive. Kept the attention!”                                                                            “The pace of delivery is great – the time really flew by!”                                                                        “The workshop flowed very well and I enjoyed the interactive side of things.”                                    “Very good session, loved the large proportion of team work.”

The Skillfluence Approach

The Skillfluence team is dedicated to creating and delivering high impact training that will make a real difference to the way scientists work and communicate. The methodology for all our training is:

  • Strengthens and amplifies the cohort effect
  • Hands on, experiential and interactive
  • Inspiring, motivating and innovative
  • Designed and customised for every group and setting
  • Practical, applicable tools and techniques
  • Relevant and current real life examples
  • Knowledgeable, experienced and enthusiastic trainers
  • Action planning and challenging for setting goals and next steps