Sixty Seconds with Dr Charlotte Bell
Dr Charlotte Bell is an Industry Partnerships Manager in the Medical Sciences Business Development Team. This team works to develop relationships between the University and industrial partners, and manages a number of exciting research Fellowships. In this interview, Charlotte discusses the team's activities, the value she sees in researchers working with industry, and her varied role.
What does the Business Development Team in the Medical Sciences Division do?
Many things! We mainly focus on developing relationships between the University and UK-based and international industrial partners (in the medical sciences). We catalyse the growth of new relationships and manage those which are up and running. We work to understand company interests and academic specialisms, and interface with other key University teams to help to get collaborative projects off the ground quickly.
What is your role within the team?
My role as Industry Partnerships Manager involves managing existing strategic alliances with companies such as UCB and Celgene, and supporting the development of potential future alliances. This sees me support relationship building and develop opportunities for communication and collaboration between the University and these companies. I do this through coordinating meetings and joint seminar series, and running fellowship calls and alliance days to bring all partners together to review and develop projects. I help to put companies who are interested in working with Oxford in touch with academics who I think may have relevant expertise, and where the company and academic can find mutual benefit. Not all our interactions lead to projects being funded and relationships growing, but as with any relationship things take time and can ebb and flow.
Can you tell us more about the Fellowship programmes you manage?
I manage the Celgene Fellowships Scheme, which is now in its third year and has supported twelve Fellows. The Fellows – researchers throughout the Division - have varied backgrounds and experiences and are paired with mentors from Celgene who can guide project direction and provide scientific input, resources and in some cases facilities and equipment. Some Fellows spend time in the company or visit their facilities during their Fellowship and we’ve received fantastic feedback about these visits. This year I also set up a workshop and Fellows’ Dinner to bring together researchers from our four Fellowship programmes, and everyone enjoyed the chance to network.
What do you wish researchers knew about working with industry?
That lots of cutting edge, basic and translational research goes on in industry that is really not that dissimilar to academia. One of our Fellows was really enlightened after visiting their aligned company and realising that their research activities were similar to theirs, and that the research wasn’t any less rigorous or innovative. I wish that researchers had more opportunities to spend time with industry to experience how research is conducted in this setting, and to soak up the chance to see things from a different perspective. These opportunities are not always easy to come by, but the Fellowships and alliances managed by the Business Development Team make this possible.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Communicating with so many people across the University and helping things to run smoothly. If something needs to be organised I will do it, even if it might at first seem a challenge. Research is fascinating, but the most exciting part of my job is the variety of things I am involved in and the satisfaction I get from helping someone to succeed in their aims.
How did you get to where you are today?
After a collaborative Engineering Doctorate with GSK and Newcastle University I moved down south to work for BBSRC as I was interested in Academic-Industry collaborations. I managed large funding mechanisms where businesses were involved. After three years there, I moved to the University of Bristol to work in the knowledge exchange team and see things from the university side. I was most interested in relationship management which led me to this role, fantastic team and beautiful city.
What do you get up to outside of work?
I spend a lot of my work time in an office, which means I love to be outdoors when I’m not at work. I play a lot of tennis and netball for local teams and have recently got some chickens who live in my garden and provide me with much amusement. Being on the allotment is also my passion and I love to try to grow strange vegetables, although don’t always have much success!