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Claire Shingler is the Business Manager at the BioEscalator. In her story, Claire tells us about her role managing Oxford’s biomedical science incubator, sharing her motivations and the rewarding experiences of supporting innovative spin-outs.

Photo of Claire Shingler alongside a quote "Working with spin-outs and start-ups is hugely inspiring and rewarding. It’s fast-paced, outward-looking and very collaborative."

Please give us an insight into your current role  

Since 2018, I have been the Business Manager at the BioEscalator, the University of Oxford’s incubator for biomedical start-ups. We provide flexible lab space, shared facilities, an entrepreneurial community and tailored business support via a programme of events, seminars and workshops. 

Positioned at the interface of university and commercial research and development, I interact on a daily basis with entrepreneurs, scientists and business professionals building early-stage start-ups tackling a range of diseases and healthcare challenges 

What has been your route to working in collaboration with Industry?  

My career started with a fairly traditional academic route, following my passion for medical science research. Following a PhD in cancer research at the University of Nottingham, the opportunity arose to work as a postdoctoral scientist in a new joint-venture start up based in Edinburgh and Cambridge, which I grasped to satisfy my interest in business. Although the venture did not last, I gained invaluable experience working in a start-up and exposure to the challenges new companies face. Subsequently, a stint in a pharmaceutical consultancy company focusing on deals and alliances gave me a sound understanding of the pharma and biotech industry and the necessity for partnerships and collaboration. A move then into the university sector supporting research activities in medical science departments in Oxford provided deep insight into the operations of university academic and translational research. The combination of academia and industry made the role at the BioEscalator a particularly attractive and exciting prospect. 

What are your motivations for working with industry?  

Working with spin-outs and start-ups is hugely inspiring and rewarding. It’s fast-paced, outward-looking and very collaborative. What particularly motivates me is the notion that the work we do at the BioEscalator in nurturing our companies plays a small, but valuable part in taking novel innovations (therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and technologies) from the lab to patients. By working with industry, we are an important part of a much larger innovation ecosystem that encompasses (among others) universities, industry, investors, service providers, and space providers. 

What has been most rewarding about working with start-ups 

For the past 5 years, we have supported students and early career researchers through our work with organisations such as Innovation Forum, EnSpire Oxford and the Oxford University Biotech Society, all of which run programmes for budding entrepreneurs and company founders. I never cease to be amazed by the enthusiasm, dedication and tenacity of the students and postdocs we have had the privilege of meeting and hosting at the BioEscalator. Their entrepreneurial spirit and determination to succeed is truly motivational and I look forward to following their company journeys and watching these innovators of today become the serial entrepreneurs of tomorrow.  

What do you consider to be the success factors for university/industry collaboration? 

One of the BioEscalator’s gateway criteria is that there must be an overlap between the company’s and the University’s research. As such we are surrounded by academic-industrial collaborations which can take a variety of forms. Some key success factors I have observed include - gathering the right team with the desired skills, effective communication towards a common goal, and proximity of the company to the founding lab and team.