December 9, 2021, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham
My placement was instrumental to the success of my PhD and my career
I was really proud to join the Researcher Academy Team as Programme Manager on the Productivity Through Innovation ERDF programme back in 2019. Having personally experienced the huge benefits of undertaking a placement during my own PhD and the positive impact on my career, I was excited to be directly involved in creating these opportunities for other researchers.
In 2011 I began a PhD studentship funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). My research focused on the Competitiveness of the UK Technical Textile Industry and early on in my PhD I was able to take advantage of the ESRCs EREBUS (Engaging Research for Business Transformation) programme. The programme funded and supported PhD students to undertake Knowledge Exchange placements in industry, with a focus on the researcher using their skills and expertise to enhance the host business’s transformation. Having limited experience outside of academia myself, I was keen to get as much exposure to the textile industry as I could and applied for a three-month placement with North West of England Technical Textiles (NWTEXNET).
Thankfully, I was successful! At the time, I felt it would be a great opportunity for me to develop a better understanding of the under-researched sector of technical textiles, which would help with my research. With hindsight, I can see the placement also allowed me to keep my ‘hand-in’ with the industry and a business environment as I pursued my PhD over the next 4 years.
“Having personally experienced the huge benefits of undertaking a placement during my own PhD and the positive impact on my career, I was excited to be directly involved in creating these opportunities for other researchers.”
NWTEXNET had never hosted a placement within their organisation before and were interested in gaining the experience of working with a PhD researcher to utilise my research skillsets to undertake projects of market and service analysis as well as developing briefing research reports. Importantly, this placement also developed an initial opportunity for the NWTEXNET to develop a longer-term relationship with the University.
This placement enabled me to work alongside the directors to contribute to the latest and strategic projects of NWTEXNET. The project during the placement included writing qualification material for a higher-level apprenticeship and bids for funding initiatives, as well as the project management of research and development projects and the analysis of NWTexnets’ marketing strategy and future service provision as a trade association. I was also fortunate enough to represent the organisation at an international research conference in Croatia where I met with key players within the European technical textile sector.
My PhD placement was instrumental to the success of my PhD and my career, as I achieved a PhD with no corrections and managed to work at the largest UK manufacturing trade association. The benefits of this placement included developing an extensive knowledge of Technical Textiles as it refined the design of my research and enabled me to access to professional contacts and technical textile companies to interview for the data collection of my thesis. It also provided me with key transferable skills of improving my presentation, communication and project management skills via regular field diary entries, monthly reports and delivering briefing meetings with my academic supervisors and NWTEXNET directors to ensure the placement met the aims and objectives and made satisfactory progress. These skills were transferable to my PhD, and gave me the confidence to manage long-term projects and adapt my communication style for academic and business audiences.
After my placement, I continued to work with NWTEXNET on an ad hoc basis as a project assistant to support the operation of research projects. Importantly, this placement provided me with a very long-term working relationship with the directors of NWTexnet as they supported the progress of my PhD and career journey. The NWTEXNET directors have become important career coaches and very good friends; in fact, they are so important to me that they attended my Wedding Day!
Dr Megan Ronayne is Programme Manager in the Researcher Academy Placements and Internships Team. She manages the Productivity Through Innovation (PTI) ERDF Programme. PTI is a business support programme designed to boost the competitiveness of Small and Medium sized businesses in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The £7.1 million programme works with companies, through a diagnostic process, to help identify productivity challenges within the business. A Postgraduate Researcher undertakes a placement business to identify and deliver meaningful projects to improve business competitiveness, with the first step being to benchmark their productivity against other businesses. Recent projects include process mapping to enhance workflow, in-depth market analysis and research on new products, as well as research on automation technologies to increase throughput. To find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org