cover art for Beyond the Breakthrough featuring Maxine Ficarra

Maxine Ficarra was the chief executive of PraxisAuril for nearly 20 years, stepping down today. This is her farewell interview, in which she looks back on all she’s achieved and reflects on her legacy.

Ficarra has helped shape the profession like few others have. She led the organisation through two mergers and a pandemic and concluded with PraxisAuril’s largest conference yet in June this year.

She tells us how she became the first employee even before it was incorporated. She tells us why she was relieved that not all leaders need to be like Alan Sugar and imagines a future in which a knowledge exchange professional might become prime minister… or at least famous enough to compete on Strictly Come Dancing (that’s Dancing with the Stars for our American listeners).

It’s clear that Maxine’s impact will be felt for many years to come and that can only be a good thing.



Please note that the intro and outro have been omitted.

Maxine, welcome to the podcast.

Hi Thierry. Thank you so much. Very kind of you to invite me.

It is a pleasure to have you. I am very glad you could join me. To start with, if there is anyone out there who does not know PraxisAuril, can you give me a brief overview of what the organisation does?

Yes, of course. So, PraxisAuril is the UK’s Professional Association for Knowledge Transfer Practitioners. Our mission is to support and enable those individuals who work at that intersection of the university and business world, and their job is to translate knowledge and research into impact in society and the economy. So, at PraxisAuril, our job is to inspire and support and elevate those.

We have about 5,000 individuals in the PraxisAuril community, mostly working directly in knowledge exchange and technology transfer, but also academic colleagues, businesses, service providers, as well as key stakeholder and government organisations of course. Really, we focus on helping our members to develop the practical skills they need to do their job with an extensive range of training programmes, they run online and in person throughout the year.

We come together each year for an annual conference to enable people to connect with their peers and all the key players in the sector and the stakeholders. Members meet in person and virtually at various fora and special interest groups throughout the year. We spend a lot of time working behind the scenes to represent the knowledge exchange sector, and we often act as a convener and as a source of expertise for government and stakeholder groups wishing to consult with KE professionals.

We have an exec team of 10 based in Cambridge, and then a very extended network of expert volunteers who design and deliver our programmes. I think you probably know that PraxisAuril is also one of the founding members of ATTP, which is that international alliance of knowledge exchange associations focusing on professional standards in KE, and which is also driven by expert volunteers.

Amazing. There are quite a few elements in there that I am sure we will get back to, but perhaps first, another general question. What are the different services that PraxisAuril offers to professionals?

It is mostly that sort of develop, promote, connect thing. So, our training offering, building those skills. Back in the day we started off with just one fundamentals of technology transfer programme. That has expanded significantly now.

We moved into spinouts, business development, research contracts. Those are the scheduled main courses, but then there are lot of online, bespoke in-house type events as well that we run depending on what the customers want. We complement that with a mentoring scheme. We have run a couple of cohorts of that. We put that on hold slightly during the pandemic.

That is about to start again. So, where again people are volunteering their time as mentors and people can apply to be a mentee, and we are introducing system where people can automate that sort of matching process, which is always something that is really important.

So, there are all sorts going on. The conference is just those opportunities to keep on top of the key topical issues that are happening in the sector, lots of opportunities for interactive discussion and comparing notes. A lot of what we do is about getting people together to share their experience and be quite candid about some of the things that have happened to them in their day jobs and somehow being able to talk to somebody else about that makes things a lot better.

Then we do things like the Knowledge Exchange Awards, we run leadership programmes, all sorts of things. Very entry level programmes for people who do not really know what knowledge exchange is. That sometimes is for academic audiences rather than practitioner audiences.

So, really, yes, everything that knowledge exchange practitioners or those working in knowledge exchange need to understand about doing that job and what goes on in the sector at large and who the key people are and connecting them up. Just trying to be very practical in our approach and to provide things that will be useful for people.

You have mentioned the leadership programme that you have, I think that is a fairly recent addition to your offering.

Yes, it is one of our newest programmes, and in fact, we had been ready to deliver that just as the pandemic took hold, which meant that we were forced then to run the first cohort online. Of course, there are already many excellent generic leadership courses out there, and we decided to put this programme together specifically to support aspiring leaders working in a knowledge exchange context and all the particular challenges of that.

It was about inspiring confidence in and empowering the next generation of KE leaders to step up and make progress in their careers and to have the opportunity to network with peers, share experience and be really candid in their approach. So, there is quite an interactive field to this sort of programme, although it has to be said that that interactivity and sharing of personal experiences is a fundamental feature of nearly all our training programmes.

You mentioned the KE Awards. Other than perhaps everyone loves a good award ceremony, why are they important to PraxisAuril?

Well, one of our key roles is about promoting what the sector does. So, the PraxisAuril Knowledge Exchange Awards are our major platform really to showcase the work of KE practitioners. We are trying to shine a light on their largely hidden success and make sure that is being done across a whole range of activity.

Commercial success is clearly only one, although very important, measure, which is why we often see spinout companies and blockbuster license deals grabbing all of the headlines. But of course, there are all the other public benefit impact stories that we must draw attention to because that breadth of activity is ever increasing.

Our sector needs to do probably quite a bit more to highlight the positive impact of its work, and so that is definitely one of the things that PraxisAuril must do. I think in the UK particularly, we are often quite reserved and not always excellent at blowing our own trumpet, nice English colloquialism there.

But we need to get better at this. So, for our awards this year, I am really delighted that we have the TenU and the government office for tech transfer, the NCUB, SETsquared, as well as our major supporters UKRI, all joining forces to ensure that we extract maximum PR opportunities from those awards this year, which obviously happens to be our 20th anniversary year as well. So, it is all about telling the story and that is definitely a theme of where the focus is going to be for PraxisAuril.

We have worked a lot with SETsquared as well over the years. You have got yourself a brilliant partner there.

Yes, we have got an excellent panel of judges. Again, representative of a broad range of organisations and perspectives, so we are really pleased about that.

Speaking of positive impact, with regards to EDI, how can we increase diversity specifically in leadership positions?

Yes, really, really important. Equity, diversity, and inclusion in relation to leadership positions especially is about showcasing a diversity of role models and creating safe places and platforms which allow people to be open and able to share their personal experiences and aspirations.

We all have to find better ways to ensure that our activities enable and encourage different perspectives and it is a personal responsibility to ensure that we are best informed to be an ally and to enable representation of the underrepresented, especially when you are in an organisation like PraxisAuril. It is a huge opportunity there to bring people together in small groups or in large groups, and to disseminate messages or help people to engage, enable that.

So, in fact, I am reminded of an experience that I had this year at the PraxisAuril conference in Brighton, where a delegate I had not met before approached me and said, Would it be okay to have just a quiet chat about some of the things I had talked about during an ASTP webinar earlier in the year?

And that was an EDI-related event, giving quite personal stories, and I had included it in what I was saying, the challenges of being a single parent with a big job in my early days at Praxis, and I was really touched to realise that by talking openly about my experience, I had enabled this young woman to share her own story in a quiet, safe space, but somehow then to feel somewhat validated and to feel that it was okay to have a conversation about something which was a challenge.

That was a really powerful moment for me, and I think there is probably more that we at PraxisAuril and many sector stakeholder organisations can do, sometimes quite small things that can have a big impact. I hope to continue to be involved in those sorts of initiatives even after I have left my role at Praxis.

That is wonderful. I had not realised you are a single parent. I tend not to bring up questions about home life. I try and stay focused on the job, but maybe that is worthy of discussing. How do people balance their life?

Yes, I think it is something that affects everybody in their working lives. So, I think the fact that we very often do not have those conversations and do not ask those sorts of questions can be unhelpful. Having an open conversation about something gives people permission almost, and we all know that we do not generally in a work context ask people questions about family unless they start talking about it first.

That just seems to be the way that we have all approached things, but when you have the opportunity to have some of those conversations in a safe way with a group of people and normalise it in the right place. I am not saying in every single business conversation we have that is what should be happening but being able to identify with what somebody else is saying can help. In fact, that is how Praxis works.

It might not be about personal stuff, but it is about having candid conversations with people about experiences in their day jobs and challenges they face, and comparing notes and feeling, Okay, I am not alone in this. So, we do it in that sort of very business-like context. This was just a bit of a moment for me to see that having a more personal conversation can also be really helpful to somebody in their working life.

I think that is very true. It is brilliant to hear that those conversations happen because you would not advertise those conversations because they are in private.

But equally, there is nothing to stop practice all with this super online discussion sort of functionality allowing people to say, Look, if you just want to get together as a group of like-minded people to have a conversation, you can. We have those kinds of tools. So, as always, it is for the members to drive those and to want to do that. So, we can provide facilities and tools to enable people to do that. But it is for individuals really to want to do that. Yes, we cannot force people to do those kinds of things obviously.

You have been with PraxisAuril for nearly 20 years, starting when it was still called Praxis Courses. What first attracted you to the organisation?

Well, yes, I was the first and only recruit back in 2003, in fact, even before Praxis Courses was incorporated, which came in April 2004. I was returning to work after three years of maternity leave and a previous career in business administration, marketing, all roles with a very strong customer service focus. At the time it was advertised as a programme manager role at Praxis.

It looked like a really exciting opportunity to use my skills to be in at the beginning of something which looked like an important national endeavour for what was then called technology transfer. Not that I had any idea what technology transfer was at that stage.

Yes, it was a bit of an unknown. But it became clear very early on that this was a very special group of people I was working with, all volunteering their time and passionate about giving back to the profession, and that was really compelling. It has been what has kept me here for all these years, really, those special people.

Then later on when first we merged Praxis Courses with Unico and then Praxis Unico with Auril to form PraxisAuril, I think that was just further evidence of the whole sector working together to do the right thing for the benefit of everyone. That tells you something about the type of people who are involved in this sector.

So, I just feel really privileged to have worked with hundreds of expert practitioners over the years for whom I have huge respect and admiration, and many of whom have become close friends actually.

It is quite funny, interesting to hear that even the CEO of PraxisAuril had never heard of technology transfer before she got the job.

Indeed, I think that is maybe something a bit different about me and my leadership of PraxisAuril, because I think in most of the other knowledge exchange associations around the world, the leader of that organisation is, or has formally been a KE practitioner.

So, my background, as I said, is customer service and marketing and business and I think that combination has been very powerful at PraxisAuril. You have your absolute technology experts and technical experts and combined with professional customer service and administration and exec support, and I think that is what has made a very successful combination, and huge respect between the volunteers and the exec, I should say, who are each brilliant at what they do and in combination have created something quite special.

You have touched on this a few times and I imagine everyone listening would agree, knowledge exchange is a people business, and obviously from the sounds of it PraxisAuril is very much a people business too. What are some of the leadership lessons you have learned during your time with the organisation?

We all know that there are many different leadership styles and approaches to leading a team, and there is no absolute right or wrong way to do that, although of course some styles are more suitable in certain contexts.

I remember attending some leadership training myself about eight or nine years ago and feeling very relieved that I did not have to be Alan Sugar or anyone like that, anyone other than my authentic, quite unassuming self to be able to do quite a good job of leading people.

So, for me, being a leader is about genuinely understanding what is important to an individual, both at and away from work, and then supporting them with guidance along the way, of course, to enable them to succeed in line with company culture and objectives. So, my personal leadership style is very open and collaborative and consultative.

I do not impose my opinions, but I do consult a lot because I think it is important to listen. And ultimately, no one individual can do everything they need to work through a team and with a team, whether they are employed or volunteering.

So, in the particular context of running an organisation which is almost entirely dependent on expert volunteer contributions for income generation, the programme development aspects, this has been a really important feature of our success. The responsibility that our expert volunteers take on is huge. Just imagine during the pandemic, which required a complete step change in the way that we delivered things, which meant reformatting everything.

But I think the important thing is that, and I hope, that volunteering for PraxisAuril is fun and it enables people to be creative and expansive in ways that might just not be possible in their day job. And fundamentally, just having the opportunity to get together with volunteer colleagues, testing out ideas, comparing notes in that informal, safe setting really is hugely valuable to people.

The fact that we are doing so much online delivery makes that whole experience more accessible to more potential volunteers, because we do not have to operate just face to face anymore. So, I am hoping that people will see that it is fun.

I would say the simple fact that you keep finding volunteers is proof that it is fun.

So many of them have contributed over long periods of time. It is truly a special group of people, and that does not mean that it is not without its challenges of course. If you imagine developing and delivering an entire service offering through people, the volunteers, whom we do not pay, we do not have any control over them, they have full-time jobs.

That can be quite a challenge at times, not least because they cannot stop themselves coming up with brilliant new ideas all the time. We have a finite amount of exec resources and budgets, so we have to prioritize and focus.

But that balancing act is what makes it all fun. There are a few very specific challenges in a volunteer led organisation. Things like, as you mentioned, that pipeline of contributors and keeping things current and fresh, and increasingly we are seeing that the best way to engage new people is, obviously, to make it easy, be clear about specific things that they can get involved with. But yes, like everyone else, we were in full crisis mode at the beginning of the pandemic where all of our face-to-face income generating activities on hold.

We absorbed a significant loss that financial year, which we have since recouped, I might add. But fortunately, we had just been about to launch a member wide online discussion forum as the pandemic hit and so thanks to the superb efforts, not just of the expert volunteers, but of the PraxisAuril exec team, we were able to quickly move to delivering free online seminars and discussion topics just to keep the members feeling connected during that very strange time, but it was a lot of work.

Keeping that momentum going was quite a challenge. But the positives, of course, that whole experience of the shift to virtual offerings has meant that we now have this entirely new perspective on what is possible and how we can service the changing needs of our members and customers. Yes, we are just aiming towards ensuring that all our programmes will be accessible in multiple formats in the very near future. Whether that means they are face-to-face, online, bite size, scheduled, bespoke, in house.

The experience of the pandemic certainly helped us to think differently about our offering and to keep moving forwards, which is really important.

Yes. Speaking as someone who works for a company that also generates a lot of revenue from events, I definitely feel your pain. We had to shift everything online obviously as well, and of course that is not as revenue generating as face-to-face meetings.

Correct. But we did see engagement levels really increase during that time because obviously people were unable to travel and to connect face-to-face with people, so more people dipped in to see what it was like and I think over the course of the last two years, we have really seen people become expert at online engagement.

I think that is not for every relationship, but we certainly noticed a difference last year when we ran a virtual conference than in the previous year. And just the level of willingness to have your camera on and be asking questions and butting in on the chat, it was quite challenging to manage, but really nice to see.

That has definitely also been my experience across online events. People are much more willing to be open and themselves on camera. Now, it is a bit of a strange feeling to get over initially because a camera in your face feels so much like you are being recorded. I suppose in this case you are being recorded.

I think I feel almost immune to it now because we ran so many events online and did have cameras on, and we have all looked at ourselves on Zoom so much that I do not even pay attention. I do not have my camera on now, for example, even though I could watch you asking me questions. It was very weird to start off with, obviously, but I think, yes, I have just become completely accustomed to it now.

Yes, I think everyone has. Hopefully everyone has. You did mention something else I wanted to pick up on, but maybe it is not so much about inspiring people because they seemingly do have a lot of ideas. How do you keep them on track and stop them running away with grand plans?

It is really interesting because of course, the whole point of having these brilliant people with superb technical knowledge involved is that they are your creative engine. So, you want them to be as creative as possible, but we have to balance that with there are only so many people on the exec team who can support the development of a new programme and deliver it.

So, it is about trying to have an outline plan at the beginning of the year of the type of thing that we are trying to deliver and working towards that whilst at the same time allowing for some flexibility in the system and space for new ideas. And of course, part of all of that is looking closely at feedback from customers and what the market is asking for.

Actually, one of the ways in which we experiment a bit is by using the conference as a way to pilot a new subject area maybe, or to use our online discussion forum to test interests and demand in an idea. It is not always about income generating events, it is about providing something for members. Our job on the exec is to make it as easy as possible for these brilliant people to download their brains and their expertise for the benefit of the sector at large.

So, making it easy is definitely a factor, which was a challenge during the pandemic, of course, because all of those people had to learn an entirely new way of doing things and that we cannot thank them enough together with some people on the exec team who just became expert in how to make people look good online, seamless production online, which was just fantastic, and we are very grateful to those people too.

The people are just brilliant. We are so fortunate. People’s drivers to being involved as volunteers, they are different, but it is really altruistic and most people are there because they feel a sense of wanting to give something back. They are wanting to share ideas, share learning. It is so interesting when you are at events and you have got people talking about things that went wrong, and that is what people learn from, learning from other people’s mistakes as well.

So, I am not sure if all of our trainers and speakers are frustrated actors or actresses, but most of them love being up on a platform as well. So, I think we give people an opportunity to do something that they cannot do in their day job. But yes, keeping that reined in sometimes is challenging, but we are quite a small, nimble organisation and so we can flex things. I have a bit of a reputation on the exec team for saying yes a bit too much to new things.

So, my sense is that our problem, or my problem is not really what do we do, but we have got so many things that we could do, where do we focus? I am as bad as the volunteers in terms of needing to just keep coming up with new things. So, perhaps it will all be a bit more focused once I have gone. That will be interesting to see

Speaking of things you did say yes to, and I think this is very laudable, at your most recent conference, you did not do welcome bags and you donated that money to the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership. How did that decision come about?

Well, it just seemed obvious really that after two years of virtual working and meetings and the benefits that we were all seeing reported about that associated positive impact on the environment. We just felt this significant responsibility not to take a backward step, but to try and offset the impact of encouraging nearly 500 people to travel to an event.

We had also always previously tried to pay particular attention to limiting food waste at conferences and just feeling ownership for that. So, the marketing team in particular came up with some excellent coms in the lead up to and at the summary at the event. We were really delighted that the conference delegates were so keen to just support that aim.

We had actually very close to zero waste on any of the catering, which is unheard of and just a real demonstration of that concerted effort by everyone. We definitely aspire to repeat that moving forwards, and I think anyone in our sector who is organizing face-to-face events is, I hope, thinking in a similar way. So, just then linking that to a donation to a local charity, just to try and raise the profile of thinking differently about Net Zero and our responsibility as organisations who all put on these kinds of events, it just seemed to make sense too to make a donation to a related local charity and Visit Brighton were brilliant actually in supporting us with that and just raising awareness of food poverty and taking a bit of action.

I am really proud of that sort of responsible and compassionate ideal that I think is part of PraxisAuril culture, and I am sure that will, I hope, continue long after I depart this role. But, yes, it is the first step. There is more work to be done clearly in terms of what we commit to as an organisation on Net Zero. But yes, there is definitely intent to do as much as we can.

That is great to hear. Certainly, if I am a delegate going to a conference, I do not care about a welcome bag. It is usually stuff in there that I do not want or do not need. And yes, give the money to people who need it and I would be quite happy.

It is a challenge when you are running a big exhibition as part of an event as well, and your exhibitors want to give things away. But you know, they were really creative too about the kinds of things. It was not all plastic things that people were giving away. Obviously, food always works.

So, anyone who had something edible as a giveaway was a big win. But yes, I think it is encouraging all the players in that kind of event to think about it. And most people were already thinking about it of course. So, I think long may that continue.

Actually, SETsquared at our last event sponsored a coffee card. That is great. People love drinking coffee.

I do remember a previous PraxisAuril conference actually, and I think it was in Stratford upon Avon, I cannot remember how many years ago, and we hired one of those bikes where if you wanted a glass of orange juice, you had to cycle to squeeze your orange juice and it was great fun, but actually that was a message too. People like that kind of thing too. I do not think anyone wants to be sitting at a conference peddling for the lights to stay on or anything like that.

That might not go down very well. Maybe there are some amateur athletes among the delegates. Speaking of conferences years ago, what kind of changes have you seen over these past two decades?

Wow. That is quite a big question. I will just think in terms of PraxisAuril and that PraxisAuril eye on the world. I think the biggest change has been in the breadth and diversity of roles and activity which now fall under the knowledge exchange umbrella.

Where 20 years ago, most of the tech transfer, as it was then called, activity seem focused on spinout companies and license deals, it is increasingly clear how much impact a whole range of university-based roles can have on the outside world. That was part of our rationale for merging Praxis Unico and Auril. Our market was changing and we needed to adapt our organisation and our service to address that.

So, I think the shape of the sector is very different now, and the traction that different areas of the sector get and the coverage that they get is a big part of what we at PraxisAuril need to continue to promote because it is not just the big blockbuster deals. So, it is a much broader range of activity that needs recognition, which is why the KE Awards covers a broad range of activity. Yes, I think that is the main one.

As a journalist who writes specifically about spinouts, I am much more interested in the unusual stories. I am obviously very glad that there are so many companies working on cancer treatments, but I enjoy writing about, for example, a yellow fever vaccine much more.

There are so many examples of impact on policy and on practice that actually have really positive benefits for society beyond pharmaceuticals. So, that is one of the challenges for the sector, which is to make sure that that full range of stories and impact stories are being shown when governments and investors and funders are focusing in a different way.

So, thinking about the audience for some of those messages is something that our sector needs to think about too.

This is another big question, and it is very much crystal ball gazing, but what do you think PraxisAuril will look like in another 20 years?

I am absolutely sure that PraxisAuril will continue to evolve of course to address the needs of whatever the market will look like in 2040. Oh my goodness, I think my driving license runs out in 2035. I will be really old by then. But whatever it looks like, I hope PraxisAuril will maintain its absolute focus on professional customer service and putting people at the centre of its offering. And then it certainly looks like that is the direction of travel.

So, that is a really short answer. As for the knowledge exchange sector as a whole, who knows, 20 years is a long time. I would hope the activity will be much higher profile and probably renamed by then as regularly happens, and we will have to change our branding, everything, and perhaps even a former KE practitioner might become a future prime minister or something who knows, or at least famous enough to appear on Strictly Come Dancing or Bake Off or something.

That is a slightly tongue in cheek comment, but actually that sort of visibility at the highest level is something which is going to take some work. Still, I think there is this window of opportunity post pandemic, where people have seen a really positive impact of the research community working together with business and beyond the normal audience for that kind of information, the public at large, understanding a bit about what universities can bring to the party, and even in government, there is so much churn and change in government that every time we are telling these stories, then all of a sudden somebody has left and we have to start again.

So, yes, hopefully it would be good if the whole world, all elements of the ecosystem, understood the importance. So, that is definitely an opportunity. Maybe one of the biggest opportunities for the sector. There has been a lot of high-profile coverage of what amazing work that so many people have contributed.

What are some of the biggest opportunities for exchange in the UK today?

I think a lot of that does centre around the communications and telling the story better. So, this window of opportunity for much broader understanding of the work that knowledge exchange professionals do. I just think there is a very compelling opportunity to tell that story better and to work in partnership with other organisations.

Some of the organisations that I have already mentioned that we are working with on the KE Awards, they are all organisations that have PR machines, and I think telling a consistent story will be really helpful. So, yes, that is an opportunity. I think that it has the potential to make a large impact if we get it right, but it will require some work.

On a related note, what are the pressing issues facing the profession?

My answer is going to be a bit related as well, because in the UK there is increased investment, but with that increased investment comes increased scrutiny and high expectations all around, so it does come back again to telling the story, being armed with the stats and soundbites about activity and success and being open.

That is not always easy in an environment where things are innovative and new and businesses do not necessarily always want to divulge some of the information, et cetera as well. So, it is a challenge, but getting that right and getting a business perspective on the storytelling, I think would be very powerful. So, making sure that we are as a sector finding ways to arm ourselves with soundbites of information, particularly in the context of changing personnel and changing government profiles and contacts. Being consistent with that story surely must help.

Is there any advice you would want to give to the next CEO of PraxisAuril?

Firstly, the current exec team is fabulous and accomplished and committed and fun, and they have great ideas. So, my first bit of advice is, look after them, you really need them. And secondly, but not necessarily less importantly, you have to keep the volunteers happy.

We literally cannot do what we need to do as an organisation without them. And the third thing, also not third most important, but just continue to listen to the views and needs of PraxisAuril members from a diverse range of organisations as you plan the forward strategy. There are many stories to be told and many different perspectives that need to feed into the way that we develop our offering moving forward. So, that would be my suggestion. It is all about the people, of course.

Perhaps that is the answer to my next question, but what are you going to miss most?

Well, of course it is the people. Although I have got every intention of staying in contact with so many excellent, special people I have encountered during the last two decades. That might be a bit ambitious because there are an awful lot of them, but they are just a special bunch of people.

I would not have stayed in a role this long without having had the opportunity to work with such smart, brilliant people who just are fun as well. I think that we all want a bit of enjoyment in our working lives. Well, maybe not everyone does, but I certainly do, and that is because of the people who are involved. So, yes, I will miss some of those people, but hopefully stay in contact.

I am sure that feeling is mutual. That sadly means we are out of time. Is there anything else that you want people to know?

Well, I guess just to say thank you really to all those who have worked for and contributed to Praxis Unico, PraxisAuril over the last 20 years, and I did just want to say actually thank you to all those wonderful people around the world who have sent such lovely personal messages of thanks and congratulations to me.

It has just been an absolute privilege and a pleasure to work with you, and I just hope to see you soon. Keep in contact, I am on LinkedIn, so contact me there. Thank you, Thierry.

Maxine, it has been brilliant fun chatting with you today. Thank you so much for giving me your farewell interview. It has been an honour.

Thank you.

Thierry Heles

Thierry Heles is the editor of Global University Venturing, host of the Beyond the Breakthrough interview podcast and responsible for the monthly GUV Gazette (sign up here for free).