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Exclusive Interview: Rhian Hayward MBE, Aberystwyth University

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DSC00157[1]Rhian Hayward MBE has been talking to us at Business News Wales about her career and the exciting developments within life sciences and healthcare applications.

Rhian is Business Development Manager at Aberystwyth University who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list this year for services to entrepreneurship in Wales.

Tell us about yourself and your business.

I’m the Business Development Manager at Aberystwyth University, responsible for the university’s partnerships with industry and technology transfer.

What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?

I want to continue building strategic partnerships with industry that are broader and deeper, concentrating our efforts on everything universities have to offer businesses; not just research but the whole ‘menu’. The main challenges are around funding. The research councils are going through change and there are uncertainties about accessing EU funding. But there are opportunities. In Wales we have the Welsh Government, and we shouldn’t underestimate its value. I feel we can continue to rely on the Welsh Government to channel funding into life science research projects.

Why do you think life sciences is such an exciting sector to be involved with at the moment?

For me it’s always been an exciting sector. Now there’s more awareness than ever that to get a product or service to market you need a combination of players. There are more advantages than ever to make that happen. We are more aware of the importance of networking and the importance of bringing together all the players – technologists, investors, government and entrepreneurs are collaborating now more than ever.

What new innovations and developments can we expect to see soon?

In a Welsh context there are lots of ongoing developments such as funding for innovation, for example the Life Sciences Bridging Fund, recognition of the need to offer young companies mentoring, for example with the Boost Cymru competition organised by the Life Sciences Hub Wales and more widely there are lots of exciting developments around medical devices, packaging and biotechnology and in the antimicrobial and natural products space.

What challenges does life sciences face in the next five years?

Currently we are focused on public sector funding, which is always a challenge. We could always do with more funding for start-ups and entrepreneurs. The Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund is focused on perhaps more mature businesses so it’s a challenge for newer start up and university spin out businesses to find money. I would be very supportive of the further development of Business Angel network links into Wales

What advice would you give to anyone who is interested in working in the life sciences sector?

I have benefitted a tremendous amount from having a post-graduate degree, because it gives you the vocabulary of life sciences. Choosing a subject that gives you that vocabulary is key. Getting some experience of working in a start-up or spin-out company environment is also useful. I have learned a huge amount from those company environments. The job that influenced my career most early on was Product Manager. Getting a view of what the customer needs from a life science product was invaluable.

What do you think are the most important qualities for success in the life sciences sector?

For new business it’s recognising that the path to a product or service is quite a long one. You need to plan for the mid to long term, so you need patience and persistence. It’s also important to understand that if you don’t succeed in taking a product to market that shouldn’t be considered a failure; the learning experience itself is so valuable.