Spotlight on... Matthew Harris

Matthew Harris
Matthew Harris
This week we meet Matthew Harris, Entrepreneurship Advisor in UCL Innovation & Enterprise, who chats to us about his work on the SPERO programme, the upcoming launch of the Diverse Founders’ Network launch and the best place to get free audiobooks!

What is your role and what does it involve? 

I’m an Entrepreneurship Advisor in UCL Innovation & Enterprise, part of UCL Research, Innovation and Global Engagement (RIGE). I oversee the development and delivery of the SPERO programme ; entrepreneurship training for UCL doctoral students and early career researchers to help prepare them for a career in academia, consultancy, working for a large-scale organisation or running their own enterprise. 

I’m also the co-lead of the UCL Diverse Founders’ Network (DFN), which aims to break down barriers and create systemic solutions to the challenges faced by diverse entrepreneurs. We will be running monthly events where you can hear from inspirational speakers and network with peers, as well as practical workshops and training sessions to support you to run an enterprise.  

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role? 

I’ve been in my current role working at UCL since September 2023, so for about 4 months.

Previously I worked at Richmond and Wandsworth Councils for two years, in the Business and Enterprise Growth Team where we ran events, workshops and initiatives to support local businesses.

Prior to that, I was a research student at UCL doing a Philosophy MPhil.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of? 

Despite having only been in this role a relatively short space of time, I’m proud to have developed SPERO further by introducing and delivering Hackathons, SPERO alumni network events and SPERO evening sessions, all of which have been very well received.

The other initiative I’m equally proud of is securing Amar Radia, co-founder of Dishoom and founder of MTHK, as guest speaker at our UCL Diverse Founders’ Network launch event on Thursday 7 March. During the evening Amar will share his journey and reflections as an entrepreneur.  

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list 

I currently have two things at the top of my to-do list.

Firstly, I’m in the process of developing a SPERO Mentor Network, where participants of SPERO can book time with a range of mentors, who have a PhD (or equivalent research background) and industry experience, to get industry specific advice and further develop their enterprise idea.

Secondly, is the development of the UCL Diverse Founders’ Network (DFN). This involves further planning our schedule of events for the year and working towards formalising the DFN as an innovation network whereby we engage with multiple external stakeholders, nurture partnerships and form an interdisciplinary ecosystem in order to run a range of knowledge exchange activities throughout the academic year and beyond.

If you know someone who might be interested in taking part in either of these initiatives, please don’t hesitate to let me know ! 

What is your favourite album, film and novel? 

It’s near impossible to pick a favourite album, but the first album I ever bought and one which is close to my heart is Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not by the Arctic Monkeys, so I’ll have to go with that. 

For my favourite film, although it is technically three films, it has to be The Lord of the Rings trilogy - they’re cinematic and storytelling masterpieces. 

For my favourite novel, I rarely read but I’m really into audiobooks (using the Libby app where you can listen to audiobooks completely for free if you have a public library card...a great resource FYI). I recently listened to Fahrenheit 451 which blew my mind at how many accurate predictions it makes about today’s technology, even though it was written 70 years ago. 

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)? 

What does the cheese say when it looks in the mirror? Hallou-mi! (It is the only joke I can ever remember...sorry). 

Who would be your dream dinner guests? 

David Lewis, Billie Holiday, Neil Armstrong, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and whoever the architect(s) of the Great Pyramid at Giza was (were)!  

What advice would you give your younger self? 

Take advantage of opportunities, support and resources which are available and at your disposal, they won’t be there forever. 

What would it surprise people to know about you? 

I used to run an events business when I was an undergraduate in Manchester which put on dance music events with international DJs at nightclubs, warehouses and we also offered house-party packages to students.

What is your favourite place?   

I feel I should say the Yorkshire countryside (where I grew up) or Lake Annecy (where I used to go on holiday as a kid), but in all honestly, as sad as it is, my favourite place at the moment is being sat on my sofa watching TV and eating Morley’s fried chicken. 
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