James Wilson, Deepdock Ltd (The Business Perspective)

Student: 1. Ben Winterbourne, 2. Katie Clements
Company: Deepdock Ltd
Academic Supervisor: Dr Shelagh Malham & Prof David Jones

Developing a relationship with Bangor University was made easier by the fact that Deepdock is run by graduates. We’ve worked with other parts of the University over the years, through other funds and opportunities available, and have been able to offer postgraduate students a work-based placement where we can have some research projects done. The experiences we’ve had have always been positive. Every time we’re approached as a company I promote other local businesses in our sector – but then two months later we’re asked to participate because no-one else came back. I think it’s a shame that opportunities aren’t being harnessed by others; but as long as it doesn’t cause a feeling of discontent in the wider sector, and we’re not being seen as treated favourably by the University, we’ll continue to participate.

The benefit of KESS for us as a company is that we have a direct involvement in the development of relevant research – which is exciting when you’re working in a primary production/productivity sort of marketplace. Taking on people in the future is something that we may be interested in. If, as a business, we’re going to expand and be more professional, I think we need to start looking at offering graduates the opportunity to come and work for us. With that in mind there need to be realistic expectations. The type of work that we do is pretty hands-on: we’re in at 4am, and it’s often cold, dirty and wet, and there’s a lot of physical labour. That doesn’t necessarily make for a very attractive working environment, especially for people who have spent three years of their life in libraries studying.

One of the research projects that we’ve had through KESS specifically looked at bacterial pathogens in the Conwy estuary. This has had an impact on the understanding of the way that bacteria behave, and there has been an indirect direct benefit from that. This research project was also our first foray into working on microbiological stuff at an ecosystem level. It was really interesting to start that process and it’s one that we’ve continued.

“I think it’s very important to appreciate the value of research as being an objective stance: trying to influence research is an easy hole for company partners to fall into.”

As a company we don’t want to influence the student in any way while they are undertaking their research. This is something that we discuss with the student when they first come on board – we don’t want them to be affected at all by the way that they feel their results may affect us. I think it’s very important to appreciate the value of research as being an objective stance: trying to influence research is an easy hole for company partners to fall into. It can be the fact that if we’re participating in the research then we should have some influence over the direction of that research. For me it’s about being objective and also being able to just accept that sometimes, there may be some uncomfortable questions that research raises.

Generally it’s always interesting to do the research and it’s also great getting to know the person. It’s great that, with the students we’ve had recently, we’ve been given the opportunity to get to know them – for me it’s all about the personal side, not the posters and presentations. Even if they leave the area it’s good to know that they remember their time favourably. For me that’s the best part. I have travelled and worked in different parts of the world, and there is this thing about Bangor: you’re always two degrees away from the place, certainly in Marine Science. The key thing is that people have fond and favourable memories of Bangor and it’s nice to think that some of the students that we’ve had involved with us think likewise.