Meet develop: an organisation helping introduce young children to STEM careers through new partnership

develop team with Canon Barnett STEM partnership

develop, a London-based software engineering recruitment firm, is donating £20,000 to a Tower Hamlets primary school to fund STEM education.

develop, which operates in London, Berlin and Miami, will donate £25 to Canon Barnett Primary School in Tower Hamlets for every placement it makes in the next financial year.

Based on 2021/22 figures, this will amount to a total of over £20,000 going directly towards STEM education in the form of toys, learning platforms, and equipment.

‘develop’ is hoping to help reverse the talent shortages in the software engineering industry by providing help at grass roots level to directly impact the education and prospects of inner-city children.

A recent UK survey of nearly 10,000 primary school children shows that only 17 per cent aspired to a career in science despite the overwhelming growth of the UK’s STEM industries.

In this article, we get an insight from develop and Canon Barnett Primary School and get their views on the partnership, why it’s important and getting young children into the STEM space.

Let’s meet Amy and Agata to discuss the partnership and how it will help support young children’s STEM education. 

Meet Amy Moore, Senior Marketing Manager at develop

Amy is the Senior Marketing Manager at develop. Here, we talk to Amy about develop’s decision to partner with Canon Barnett Primary School, the aims of this partnership and how we can encourage more girls into STEM careers.

Amy Moore

develop are donating £25 per placement to a primary school in Tower Hamlets – can you tell us more about this?

develop are incredibly proud to announce our partnership with Canon Barnett Primary School. For every placement we make this financial year we’re going to donate £25 to the school to fund important STEM toys and resources for the pupils. Based on our statistics from last year, the donation should amount to more than £20,000.

What are the aims of this partnership?

We see the skills gap in tech talent every day, and we know that in order to fix the pipeline issue it starts from educating people from a young age. Through our partnership with Canon Barnett Primary School, we want to provide resources to the pupils that open up a new world of possibilities to them, allowing them to explore careers that they haven’t considered. The earlier that opportunities are presented, the bigger impact they can have.

What more can be done to help tackle the talent shortages in STEM?

Young women aren’t considering technology careers as they grow up because they don’t have the encouragement to pursue a career in tech, and they are not being exposed to what working in the sector involves. This then creates a lack of role models and leaders for children to aspire to, and the cycle continues for the next generation.

Businesses are struggling to hire for roles. There aren’t enough Engineers out there to meet the demand, and this is only worsening over time – the tech talent shortage is no longer a female-only issue, it impacts everyone.

How can we encourage more girls into STEM careers?

Providing girls with the resources and information from a young age is crucial in encouraging them to pursue a STEM career. Technical skills are transferable, and benefit people in all aspects of their life whether that’s at school, in the workplace or at home.

Introducing coding courses into the core curriculum is one way that allows children to explore a range of careers in their day-to-day schooling.

Early exposure is crucial in dismantling assumptions that tech isn’t a career for girls.

Educating children and young people to explore career opportunities in tech is needed in order to inspire the next generation of tech talent. Awareness and investment in the early part of the talent pipeline should be a priority for all organisations.

Meet Agata Glonek, Science Lead at Canon Barnett Primary School

Agata is the Science Lead at Canon Barnett Primary School. Here, we discuss with Agata how the partnership came about, how it will impact their pupils and why it’s important to support STEM education.

You’re partnering with develop to support your STEM education – how did this come about?

develop reached out to us, as we’re local to their office and they were looking for an inner-city primary to partner with so they could really benefit the STEM education of younger children. They wanted to find out about our existing STEM initiatives, what our needs were and how they could supplement that. We were really excited about what develop wanted to offer, and the impact it would have on the children.

What impact will the funding offer to your pupils?

The funding is going to give the children opportunities that they would have never been able to have themselves. As a school, we would not have been able to afford the resources needed for STEM education of this quality or exposed them to the different types of careers that they probably haven’t even heard of before.

The children will now be able to access STEM education to see that technology is everywhere and there are various paths they can follow. I think there really needs to be more awareness that there is so much more out there, and technology is such a big factor in our lives. It’s everywhere, so we need to expose children more to those kind of tech areas that they probably are going to find themselves working in because, truth to be told, that’s where we’re heading. Tech is a huge industry in the UK and constantly developing and changing so it’s really beneficial for children to hear about that at a young age.

How important is it to support STEM education on a grass-roots level?

Children don’t know what exists unless they are exposed to it. When we ask our pupils what they’d like to do when they grow up, the choices are very, very standardised and very limited. They tell us they want to be a teacher, because that’s who they see every day, or a doctor, because they are familiar with those roles.

Exposing them to the roles they are not familiar with or have not had the access to learn about is so important for them to make informed decisions about their future.

There will be jobs out there that probably haven’t been invented yet. Preparing them for that is very important and making sure that we offer them a range of choices so they can really see what different types of jobs and workplaces are there, is really crucial at primary age.

How can we encourage more girls into STEM careers?

We need to include more tech-based learning and activities in Science and Maths curriculums to ensure STEM education is more accessible for girls, and to teach them from a young age that they are capable of achieving the career they want. We should be connecting the subjects in more relevant ways that show our children the types of experiences that are available to them.

If girls don’t know what is out there, how are they going to aspire to do something?

STEM careers are for everyone and should not conform to any traditional gender stereotypes. We want all of our pupils to aspire to what they would like to do and never feel that their gender should stand in the way of that.


Engineer showing equipment to a female apprentice, women in STEM

How funding and support through Fellowships are helping nurture women in STEM

Engineer showing equipment to a female apprentice, women in STEM

Article by Helen Harris, Fellowship Programme Manager at the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851

While many sectors of the UK economy are making great strides in the name of gender equality and equal opportunity, the tech sector can seem to remain stubborn and elusive for many highly skilled women.

Current estimates suggest that only 22% of tech directors are women, and this is definitely not through lack of talent, but almost exclusively down to lack of opportunity. Despite women achieving undergraduate degrees at higher rates than men, many women are leaving universities and finding it a difficult and daunting task to pursue business success in tech industries. But many avenues are available to entrepreneurial women in this position to provide the opportunities necessary for success, and a particularly advantageous avenue is fellowships.

Each fellowship programme is different, and each organisation offering them has its own specialisms and idiosyncrasies. Across the UK a number of organisations providing fellowships are fostering one of the most supportive research environments in the world, from Research Fellowships provided by the Royal Academy of Engineering to Health and Social Science grants provided by the Wellcome Trust. Here, I would like to focus on fellowships offered by an organisation I am close to, the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. Fellowships offer a two-pronged approach to providing opportunities to those who can demonstrate the right characteristics of tenacity, business acumen and technological know-how. These prongs are funding and networking, and when brought together can provide the well-deserved leg-up required to achieve success in this male-dominated field.

Funding

Funding is fundamental to the success of any project. Whether you have a brilliant business idea or an ingenious scientific theory to trial their viability you first need financial backing. The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 offers financial support to graduates through a number of Fellowships aimed at entrepreneurs, researchers, engineers, designers and more. Through this a number of exciting tech ventures have been nurtured and the careers of many trailblazing women in STEM have been fostered. Among the alumni of the Industrial Fellowship programme you can find the likes of Dr Sarah Ridley, The Engineer’s champion of International Women’s Day 2021. Fellowship funding allowed Dr Ridley to earn a PhD whilst continuing to work at her job, now as Project Director for Autocraft Solutions Group she also acts as a STEM ambassador encouraging more women and girls to enter this industry.

Networking

A fellowship is often seen as a programme with a finite end and limits in its scope, but as they are often attached to larger academic and industrial bodies the doors they open are truly invaluable. The Commission’s fellowships enable graduates to become part of an alumni network that stretches widely in breadth and spans several generations, especially as it was set up over 170 years ago! The connections available to these awardees cannot be understated and collaborative working off the back of this often leads to the development of new and previously untapped trains of thought. The Commission boasts over 900 distinguished alumni in its network and previous fellows have included 13 Nobel Prize laureates.

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For aspiring researchers, a fellowship can represent the first step on a truly unexpected career path, with the ultimate goal of making great contributions and discoveries within a cutting-edge field. Dr Beth Mortimer, for example, completed her Research Fellowship with the Commission in 2019 which investigated how vibrational communication exists across nature. Throughout her fellowship she raised a further £830k of research funding and spoke at the TED Women conference in 2018. Now Dr Mortimer is using her specialism in vibrational communication in nature to develop bioinspired technologies for use in robotics.

Attempting to break into a male-dominated field can often feel intimidating and isolating, particularly for young women only at the beginning of their careers. Having the support provided by a fellowship programme can be a great source of confidence and advice needed to reach your inner potential. This culture of support, together with a world-class alumni network, brings fellows face-to-face with leading figures within their industries who can act as role models, which will be key for early career development.

Recent Enterprise Fellows have included design engineer Natalie Kerres who was supported by the Commission to further her biomimetic injury prevention tech start-up SCALED. Through funding, networking and mentoring opportunities Miss Kerres has established a successful business off the back of her own technological research.

Striving for success in STEM sectors is an aspiration for large numbers of young women up and down the country, but without the necessary structures and opportunities that aspiration can remain unrecognised and unfulfilled. Fellowships offer young people a life-changing opportunity to further their own careers and pursue scientific and technological brilliance. Even just this year Industrial Fellowships were awarded to women researching practical solutions to further diabetes research, shrink satellite technology, and accelerate the production of complex next generation therapeutics. Fellowships represent the ultimate level playing field in an industry trying to shake off a history of male-centric thinking, but have the potential to redress the gender imbalance by supporting the next generation of female innovators and entrepreneurs.

Fellowship opportunities are out there and fresh thinking from a broader range of female applications is definitively what is needed to level up the careers of ambitious women and take UK research to even greater heights.

For more information about Fellowships from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 go to: https://royalcommission1851.org/.


The five key components of a successful founder-VC relationship

Young crew of happy excited male and female business partners celebrating completed startup project while looking at camera and laughing, best places to work

Article by Ekaterina Almasque, General Partner at OpenOcean

Investment from a VC fund is fundamental for many start-ups. However, even with this added financial support, not all businesses are successful.

Figures from Harvard Business School show that as many as 75% of VC-backed companies never return cash to investors.

To build a successful VC-founder relationship, I believe there are five components:

  1. Set expectations early on

Before reaching any kind of agreement, the investor and founder must establish the terms of the relationship. For VCs, this involves pitching a plan to best leverage their investment to founders, putting forward a vision for the company in the future, and what guidance and support they can provide along the way. Equally, the founder must be transparent about what they are looking for in an investor to avoid any unavoidable obstacles later on.

In the tech sector, founders need to find a VC with experience and expertise to understand their offering and deliver meaningful value to the business. Seeking out capital at the expense of the specific capabilities or technological know-how required is, unfortunately, a common mistake for many founders of tech start-ups.

  1. Establish trust

Founders should see their investor as a trusted advisor. Investors have the experience they’ve gained throughout their career and other companies in their portfolio to advise founders on the best way forward.

When VC investment comes in, early stage start-ups in particular can scale up at pace, facing new challenges every day: recruitment, selecting partners and suppliers, deciding which markets to expand into, the list goes on. An investor will seek to fill any gaps in this period, answering questions, making introductions, and generally providing support as the business grows.

Throughout my time as a VC, I have learned that founders value belief above all else. Taking a start-up to unicorn status is a sizable task, and it requires a VC who understands the difficulties and is prepared to boost founders’ confidence with a steady hand.

  1. Grow together

As a founder, who is often synonymous with the business, it may be tough to trust a new investor and if not properly managed, this situation could generate tension and hostility when investors suggest alternative routes or question decisions made.

Instead, founders must recognise that investors have a legitimate interest in seeing the business succeed and remain open to any insights offered. Scaling a business is very different from starting one, and difficult choices will need to be made. If a founder’s rigid attachment to their original vision causes them to be unwilling when listening to others, it could put the firm’s chance of success at risk.

Many in the industry liken the best founder-investor relationships to that of an athlete and a coach. The athlete is the star, bringing the talent, passion, and inspiration to keep everyone motivated. The coach is the secret to success, supporting the athlete in developing their career through providing the counsel they need to prosper.

  1. Work on the relationship

Like any relationship, founders and VCs need to invest time and effort into nurturing their partnership.

In the case of OpenOcean’s investment in quantum firm IQM, it was the culmination of discussions over a long period, starting with informal discussions and building towards an eventual agreement to invest. By putting in this time, we built up a strong understanding of the organisation and established an effective plan for how VC investment could help ensure the long-term success of the firm.

Similarly, regular and honest communication is essential. In my work with the founders of hyperconverged infrastructure firm Sunlight.io, we used weekly meetings and informal catch-ups to get to grips with what the company was building and how our investment could help them.

  1. VC industry expertise

The last and perhaps most important ingredient of founder-VC success is sector experience. The technology industry is changing beyond all recognition, with advanced technologies creating new opportunities for innovation across all industries.

VCs need in-depth knowledge of the industry they’re investing in if they are to provide impactful counsel for founders. Ideally, this expertise comes from experience as a founder, gifting them proven credibility when guiding new founders.

Final thoughts

To close this article, I’d like to address the lack of diversity within the VC industry. According to the Global VC Report 2020, the industry reached an all-time high of $300 billion in venture funding in 2020, and yet only 2.3% of VC funding went to women-led start-ups. Combined with other pandemic-induced backsliding in the way of gender equality, these figures are a major cause for concern.

As we are aware, diversity in the workplace is linked to greater productivity and better decision-making, but gender diversity in particular leads to more innovation – a key attribute of a successful founder.

Unfortunately, the VC industry itself has somewhat of a ‘boys club’ notion associated with it, and this outdated perception of the industry has slowed the influx of women into the sector. However, to resolve this issue we must transform our thinking as investors to minimise the influence of unconscious bias and instead, be open to the fantastic opportunities being presented to us, regardless of gender, age, race, or any other factor.

If investors can follow this model of investment, we can reach the future we all want: an industry that backs and supports the ambitions of talented and driven founders – irrespective of who they are.