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International Women’s Day 2021 – salute to women trailblazing innovation

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This International Woman’s Day, Senior Business Manager Anji Miller salutes all the amazing women trailblazing in the world of innovation.

“What is the calculus of innovation? The calculus of innovation is really quite simple: Knowledge drives innovation, innovation drives productivity, productivity drives economic growth.” William Brody (scientist born 1944) 

Anji Miller, Senior Business Manager, raising a hand in solidarity with International Women’s Day 2021

My love of science started at a young age and has never faltered. My career journey has been long, and despite the many challenges and setbacks faced, the burning ambition to use my knowledge and experience to help others has propelled me to push on.

After completing my PhD in cancer gene therapy with over seven years of scientific bench experience, I realised that I wanted to apply my knowledge and expertise to further innovation away from the bench.

Although I no longer design and conduct experiments, I take pride in the importance of my role in the developmental pathway of academic derived technologies. Like many in the technology transfer sector, I had to pave my own route into the profession. There were no identifiable role models or a clear path into the profession from the lab. Although at the time, the lack of diversity was not much of a surprise after a scientific career, it is disappointing to observe that little has changed after almost two decades.

Despite technology transfer sector roles not being new, they are still not widely promoted, understood, or appreciated as a profession alongside more traditional careers in science. The value and expedited translation of academic research to address Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of technology transfer.

We need to act on this recognition and work towards highlighting the profession in schools, colleges, and universities, embracing diversity, and ensuring there is a clear route into the profession that is accessible to all.

This ambition has been one of the main drivers for the LifeArc AUTM technology transfer Fellowship programme, which I lead, alongside my STEM and diversity and inclusion activities.

The LifeArc AUTM technology transfer fellowship programme, is designed to assist scientists to use their expertise outside the laboratory as technology transfer professionals. Open to scientists throughout Europe, the training, mentorship and support provided equip the fellows with the required sector skills and encourages future leadership. An unexpected observation over the past five years is the fact that most applicants are women.

Like me, many are proud scientists who have chosen to practise away from the laboratory; it is hoped these individuals will bolster the European technology transfer sector and contribute to levelling the representation of women in the boardrooms. This programme has created a great impact in the technology transfer sector however, as previously mentioned, so much more needs to be done in this sector to support women and diversity.

As a woman in scientific innovation, I am proud of who I am, and what I do for living. I am fortunate to be part of an organisation where the drive is to support the translation of great science that is developed by all.

LifeArc’s approach to supporting translation is extensive and goes beyond the remit of this blog. This approach includes technology transfer training, a translational service for the charity sector through to support of translational research and embraces and supports technology generated by all members of the academic life science sector.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
Alan Kay (born 1940), Computer scientist

While there are more women in innovation than ever before, we are still underrepresented and there is still a long way to go.

Change needs to happen at a grass-roots level.

Although I am encouraged by seeing more women and diversity within the sector, I look forward to when we are more equally represented and there are more women of colour at all levels of seniority.

As a STEM ambassador and passionate advocate for diversity and inclusivity, I will continue to use my voice and platform to support this aim.

Anji Miller MSc PhD CLP RTTP is a Senior Business Manager for LifeArc and leads the LifeArc AUTM Fellowship Programme.

This piece first appeared on on Praxis Auril for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021

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