Outcomes - Preparing the roadmap: prioritising cross-disciplinary training needs with industry

The workshop outcomes are compiled in the report (PDF below) and it is structured around two themes: barriers to collaboration industry-academia and industry requirements and the skills gap.




The attendants to the workshop had diverse backgrounds and professional experiences and they were from big biotechnology companies and SMEs.

  • Bryn Roberts - Roche: SVP & Global Head of Data & Analytics
  • David Humphreys - UCB: Senior Director, Head of New Modality Therapeutics
  • Duncan Simpson - Canon Medical Research Europe Ltd.: R&D Partnerships and Projects
  • Ken Scott - University of Edinburgh, School of Informatics: Business Development Manager
  • Luke Williams - Enara: Director of Biology
  • Madhuri Cherukumilli - Boehringer Ingelheim: Manager External Digital Innovation
  • Malcom Skingle - GlaxoSmithKline: Director, Academic liaison
  • Mhairi Towler - Vivomotion: Founder and CEO
  • Miika Ahdesmaki - AstraZeneca: Head of Bioinformatics and Data Science
  • Nils Kölling - Genomics plc.: Manager of Therapeutics Data Science
  • Rob Kitchen - Novo Nordisk: Director of Computational Biology
  • Saverio Niccolini - NEC Labs: General Manager - Data Science and System Platform Research


  • Prof. Rory Duncan - Sheffield Hallam University: Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation)


Prof Rory Duncan gave a talk about the key challenges to R&D in the UK, and the importance of enhancing R&D through creating more porous career pathways between academia, industry and other sectors. Key points:

  • Increasing flexibility and mobility between careers in academia and industry.
  • Big opportunity: a lot of funding for Research and Innovation.
  • REF positive in general, but negative to increase porosity between sectors.
  • A PhD should be seen as a way of training to develop high level skills. Moving out of academia is not a failure.
Rory Duncan


Klimt - Unity

Participants were split in groups to discuss challenges and ways to strengthen interdisciplinary industry-academia collaborations.

C1. Barriers to industry – academia collaborations

  • IP agreements.
  • Cultural differences: fear from academics to lose control or direction.
  • Funding and resources: time, freedom of postdocs to move.
  • REF: might hinder porous career progression.
  • Keeping security for those who wants to move.
  • Need of reducing risks to the individuals.

C2. How to promote interdisciplinary industry-academia collaborations

  • Open science models, Lambert Agreement, Open Innovation.
  • Offer more training for academics: team work.
  • Change culture of leaving academia as failure.
  • Secondments and joint PhD studentships.
  • Next REF is likely to change, enabling more movement between sectors.
  • Establishment of different models: fee for service, consortium model (i.e. DSTT in Dundee), consultants.
  • Creating schemes in research councils to promote porosity.
  • Funding for secondments.
  • Place more value on developing holistic researchers.



D1. Industry recruitment and skill preferences

  • Need for data and computational skills, programming and AI.
  • High data standards (FAIR: findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable).
  • Ability to work in teams and in interdisciplinarity.
  • Effective communication skills: from lay audiences to publication.
  • Critical path analysis and problem solving.
  • Tendency to hire at the postdoc level.
  • Fellowships and studentships should be incentivised to recruit the right employees from academia.

D2. Interdisciplinary skills missing in new recruits

  • Need of high standards for data and integrity.
  • Team work – feedback.
  • Genuine problem solving: efficiently and minimally.
  • Outsourcing when required.
  • Critical path analysis.

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E. Further resources

Links to further resources were provided to help participants to find appropriate support.

Experiences from biomedicine

For collaborations