Former CEO of the 3M BIC, Prof Liz Towns-Andrews, retires at the end of the year after a 35-year career working as a scientist, academic, business mentor and Director of Research and Enterprise at the University of Huddersfield. She looks back on her time at the 3M BIC, and how her dream to create a hub for businesses to innovate and access academic capabilities has surpassed her expectations.
My vision for the 3M BIC was to create a platform where businesses could access university capabilities and have the ingredients to innovate and thrive to support regional economic regeneration.
I wanted it to bridge the gap between business and academia, dispelling the myth that universities are impenetrable. Universities have the knowledge and facilities that businesses need, but companies have the commercial capabilities that universities lack, and I believed that by working collaboratively the results would be ground-breaking.
My biggest challenge was convincing the University of Huddersfield’s VC, Prof Bob Cryan, that it would work, as well as establishing the centre as a limited company, and a business for businesses, not just another University of Huddersfield department.
I had previously set up the Science and Innovation Centres at Harwell and Daresbury when I worked for the UK Research Council, so I had every confidence in the 3M BIC that it would be a huge success.
Now in its 8th year and I am in awe of what the 3M BIC has achieved and how far it has come. It has certainly surpassed my expectations and that is down to the amazing team working behind the scenes, from the management and marketing teams to our design experts that have supported hundreds of businesses to get new products off the ground or improve existing ones. I am incredibly grateful for all their hard work over the last 8 years.
It is also rewarding seeing businesses that have been supported by the 3M BIC, whether they are tenants, members or companies that have accessed our technology and design expertise, that have gone on to achieve great things. The 3M BIC’s ethos has always been about supporting businesses to fulfil their goals.
Since I took a step back from the 3M BIC in 2019, my successor, Sue Cooke, has really driven the 3M BIC forward as a leading innovation centre in the region. Initiatives such as Innovation Week and the Kirklees Top 100 Companies are not only putting the 3M BIC on the map but showcasing the calibre of businesses within the region that are creating job opportunities and encouraging inward investment.
I am very much looking forward to what the future holds for the 3M BIC and businesses across the region as we collectively take steps to rebuild the business community, following what has been an incredibly challenging year for many.
I would like to thank all those that have been with me on the 3M BIC’s journey to help make it a success and wish Sue and her team the best of luck for the future.
Liz was rewarded for her dedication to business in 2013 when she was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion, which recognises individuals who have played an important role in promoting enterprise skills and supporting entrepreneurs.
She was named Forward Ladies’ STEM leader in Yorkshire, North East, and Scotland in 2016, has an MBA and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, and sat on numerous advisory boards and committees relating to academia and business.
In 2019, she was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s honours list for her ‘Services to Business, Enterprise and to Public and Private Sector Collaboration’. The citation alongside the OBE describes Liz as a “trailblazer in science” and outlines her accomplishments in the field of research and enterprise since she joined the University of Huddersfield in 2009.