Teamwork and autonomy
Alicia has always believed strongly in taking action to make a difference in the world. While studying biochemistry at Glasgow University, Alicia got involved in conservation work. During holidays she travelled and worked, teaching in Kenya and, later, English in China, and working in a lab in Brazil. While writing up her PhD research in molecular genetics at Birmingham, she also trained to be a fitness instructor and taught salsa dancing.
She took part in one of the first Biotechnology YES competitions in 1997 and found many values and themes aligned with her own. “Sometimes in the work environment there can be an emphasis on individualism and competition. I feel I’m a natural collaborator, and this was a major theme during YES. I was in a great lab but mainly focused on just achieving my PhD. YES helped show the importance of leadership, autonomy and collaboration.”
Leading research collaborations
A contact from Biotechnology YES recommended Alicia apply for her “first real job” at the EPSRC. Encouraged to apply for a big promotion a year later, she became Head of Engineering, managing 20 people and a £100m budget. After five years she joined the AHRC as Associate Director, Research.
In 2008 Alicia took on the challenge of establishing the Research Councils UK (RCUK) office in India. As Director of RCUK India she recruited a new team and developed research collaborations with Indian universities and industry. “It was the most exciting opportunity,” she says, “all about thinking about what you can achieve rather than what’s difficult, having a clear strategy and vision, nurturing good relationships, and focusing on excellence.”
After nearly four years there, she moved to Beijing to be Director of Research Councils UK, China, establishing closer cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and overseeing RCUK-funded joint research. She returned to the UK in 2014 to become Head of the Newton Programme Management Team at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Global research excellence
Alicia has championed research and innovation in senior roles at major UK funding bodies and now a top Scottish university. The Newton Fund’s focusing of international aid to strengthen science and innovation capacity has helped unlock funding to support poverty alleviation through 15 UK delivery partners in collaboration with 15 partner countries.
Between the public and private sectors, from engineering and the physical sciences to the arts and humanities, and in India, China and developing countries including 4 Latin American states and 5 South-East Asian countries, Alicia nurtured strong, mutually beneficial research relationships.
The Newton Fund is the model for other partnership funding programmes that leverage the power of partnerships using aid funding and matched income from public and private sector sources to generate meaningful impact.
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