Getting to know Skillfluence
In this week’s blog we hear from Alison Gray, founder and director of Skillfluence. Here, she tells us about her motivations for setting up the company, aims for Skillfluence and how it has evolved over the years.
How it all began…
The idea for Skillfluence started to take shape during my sabbatical in Silicon Valley in California. Whilst there, I studied at 3 different institutions and to hang out in San Francisco attending all sorts of different networks and events. There was so much going on! The universities were so well connected with start-up culture, business, and investors. I knew there was a need for this in the UK, so got to working bringing it to life.
At that time in the UK, there was much less integration of industry and academia. On an individual level I was meeting a lot of scientific researchers who were doing amazing work, but there was a disconnect between them and people outside of their field. Industry, policy makers and the public should be amazed, inspired, and excited by what was going on scientifically and technically in our universities but the jargon put them off. We needed to make more connections to join the dots between outstanding research and real-world impact and influence.
When I returned to the UK, I got to work creating Skillfluence. I was still working fulltime, using my evenings and weekends to create training programmes and developing the website – as well as learning how to run a business. I even used my annual leave to run the first training programme! Eventually I took the leap and made Skillfluence my full-time job.
Our progress so far
The overall aim is for Skillfluence to have a genuine impact by addressing and bridging the skills gap between academia and industry, making it easier for them to collaborate, communicate and innovate together.
Over the years, our experience has guided our development. Having worked with thousands of researchers and academics, we have a deep understanding of their needs and have focussed on transferable skills that truly require development. We’ve also expanded our audience. To begin with, Skillfluence was aimed at science researchers however we found that our practical approach worked across all disciplines, so now we work with a much wider range of researchers. As our clients have grown, so has our team – we have a great range of speakers that specialise in a range of subjects. They’re incredibly knowledge and enthusiastic, bringing great value to Skillfluence and enriching the experience of our learners.
Achievements to date
Skillfluence highlights include winning Scottish Edge funding – the ‘dragons’ really believed in the wide-reaching benefits of researchers gaining skills in connecting with industry.
In 2018, we began working with King’s College London Health Sciences Centre for Doctoral Training. We developed a blended programme for PhD students and early career researchers to learn about working with industry. Delivered mostly online with a final event that brought everyone together for discussion and networking; we learned a lot from this programme. More students attended the whole programme – designing to fit around their schedules meant no location and less time barriers (e.g., travel across campus). We also had a much wider range of speakers to choose without the need for physical attendance.
2020 brought a series of challenges for everyone, and we were no exception. We were already delivering our training online, but had to adapt to being fully remote. The team truly rose to the challenge. Throughout the past 12 months, I believe we’ve been an important support for researchers providing a window into a different place where they can speak to their peers, gain support and learn relevant skills. We have helped them progress even if their research has been slowed. We’ve also been building a community for the people responsible for developing researchers. We are running a regular webinar series and trialling ‘coffee break’ networking style events that are being very well received – it’s great to be able to give back in this way.
We’ve worked with some fantastic institutions from the UK and beyond including Imperial College London, King’s College London, Oxford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Durham, Politecnico di Milano, Slovenian Academy of Science and Arts and University College Cork to name a few. We’ve also worked with research and innovation centres like Roslin Institute, Vienna Biosciences, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre and Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre.
Want to know more?
When working with us, we provide 100% commitment to ensure we deliver on our promises to participants and making it as easy as possible for the organiser. From our feedback, we know we are making a difference to researcher’s abilities to connect and collaborate with industry. You can find out more about our programmes here or contact us for more information.
Creating Skillfluence has been an incredible journey. So far, we have worked with over 50 institutions and trained over 7000 participants. I cannot wait to see how Skillfluence continues to grow in the future and the next steps we take!