This week we meet Margherita Marini, Head of Global Innovation Services at UCL Innovation & Enterprise, who chats to us about building a whole new team within UCL Innovation & Enterprise and working with 116 small-medium enterprises (SMEs) in 2020 alone.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I am Head of Global Innovation Services at UCL Innovation & Enterprise, advising R&D intensive small-medium enterprises (SMEs), spinouts and startups to commercialise new technologies and grow through international collaborations.
I have the privilege of leading a team of exceptional individuals, delivering together a range of services to early stage disruptive companies that are looking to scale. Every day is different, as we may work on some projects through a more in-depth advisory service, or by organising sector-specific international missions with a view to facilitate collaborative agreements. We advise companies on their route to market, IP strategy, funding and finance, as well as facilitate international partnering.
Although a small team, our contribution to SMEs, innovation and the London economy is substantial. In 2020 we worked with 116 SMEs (including spinouts and startups), for whom we raised almost £5m between public funding and finance, created 61 jobs, launched seven new technologies to market and facilitated 13 international partnerships in spite of global challenges.
At the outset of the COVID pandemic in 2020, we also advised SMEs on how to repurpose their technology to serve new industry needs, and on how to overcome R&D disruptions caused by lockdown.
Besides my role at Innovation & Enterprise, I have the honour to chair the Global Delivery Group of the UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering, facilitating international research and translation partnerships.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I joined UCL in 2017 with the aim of building a new team working with SMEs at the heart of the Department of Innovation & Enterprise and managing several project on and Innovate UK. I transitioned to UCL while working for Innovate UK EDGE since 2015, implementing innovation and growth services for SMEs. Prior to UCL and Innovate UK EDGE, I worked at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, focusing on intellectual property (IP) for economic growth and development.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
My professional pride and work-related achievement has been going through the journey of building and inspiring a whole new team within UCL Innovation & Enterprise, complementing the work delivered by our colleagues at UCLB and Entrepreneurship with a view to leverage opportunities of international growth for SMEs, spinouts and startups. We started as a small team of three in 2017, and we are now continuously growing, increasing our revenue streams and reaching a total of 10 members in 2021 - I am extremely pleased to see that the level of collaboration, motivation and reciprocal support is directly proportional to the number of great individuals joining the Global Innovation team.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
I am currently working with Innovate UK on preparing a number of Global Business Innovation Programmes (GBIP) focusing on selecting the top 15 technologies in the UK, and helping them scale in international markets. As part of a leading health and life sciences research institution, we lead on programmes such as cell and gene therapy, digital health, intelligent ageing, and precision medicine. The programmes entail not only taking companies to market with a view to meet with potential R&D collaborators worldwide (Japan, China, US, South Korea, etc.), but most importantly preparing their teams on regulatory differences, intellectual property, and cultural negotiation.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Favourite song is Creep by Radiohead, favourite film is The Legend of 1900, and favourite novel The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
I tried water polo but my horse drowned.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Pope Francis, Dalai Lama, and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar for a serious talk about religion, followed by some fun with Ignacio and Delfina Figueras, Woody Allen, Valentino, and Giancarlo Giammetti - let’s see what happens!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Do not hesitate to travel and explore the world as much as possible, and most importantly, embrace the strengths and weaknesses that you have, because those will build on the unique person each one of us will become.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
When I was young my dream was to become a landscape designer - I am still incredibly fascinated by gardens, but I can’t even keep a plant of basil alive for longer than a week in my kitchen.
What is your favourite place?
No doubt or hesitation: Italy. Besides being my country of origin of course, I simply believe there is no other place that conveniently comprises of the best nature (from beaches to volcanoes, country hills to the alps and dolomites), the best culture and arts (from ancient Rome to the Renaissance), and most importantly, the best food (no explanation needed).