Spotlight on... Liam McCafferty

Liam is Innovation Development Manager in UCL Innovation & Enterprise. Here he shares with us his work developing partnerships across UCL, his latest project with the UCL Sustainability team and the top spot in the country for excellent beer!

What is your role and what does it involve?

I work in the partnerships team of UCL Innovation & Enterprise. The role enables me to work with UCL researchers to understand their latest innovations, work with businesses to determine their research questions and match the two together to create exciting new projects.

I also help to develop long-term institutional partnerships that span across the University, where working together gives both parties new insights and maximises the impact of our research. I like to emphasise that I, like my colleagues, can act as a front door to the whole of UCL Innovation & Enterprise. Whether you want to develop entrepreneurial skills, connect with industry, carry out consultancy, commercialise your research or access knowledge exchange funding - please get in touch. 

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I’ve been at UCL for five years now, first as a post-doc in the Chemistry department, then turning my hand to business development for the same research group before joining UCL Innovation & Enterprise. I’ve always been keen on interdisciplinary research with my own research background covering chemistry, materials and engineering.

I think it’s imperative that research is not carried out in isolation - multi-disciplinary teams are needed to solve the biggest challenges we face as a society. UCL’s research breadth, as well as its excellence, is a key strength for our institution. It is one of the reasons businesses and other partners want to collaborate with us and why I believe we can address some of the toughest problems we face to positively change the world we live in. 

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

It was a long time ago but I’m still really proud of my year in industry, working for a large chemical company just outside of Hamburg. The project went really well and it was great to see the tangible benefits that my work created. Living abroad was one of the best things I’ve done, learning a new language and experiencing a different culture was great. I think it had a massive impact on my career and on my life more widely.  

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

Working with the UCL Sustainability Team, I’m supporting a project to expand the use of a tool they have developed to assess laboratory efficiency. There is also a massive opportunity to connect the fantastic sustainability related research at UCL with the team and UCL’s new sustainability strategy - if you haven’t already heard of it be sure to check it out! 

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Album: I don’t know when I last listened to an album, I’m normally on Spotify. The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden is pretty epic and they are the best band I’ve seen live, but on my favourite Spotify playlist is Mumford & Sons’ Babel

Film: The Green Mile -  great story and glittered with memorable performances. I’ve never actually read the book - maybe I should get round to that. 

Novel: The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. It made me want to believe. The film was pretty good too - four Academy Awards from 11 nominations! 

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

My wife accused me of being immature, I told her to get out of my fort. 

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

I really enjoy cooking and there’s nothing better than spending an evening catching up with friends over a good meal and a few drinks. Raymond Blanc can come if he helps out in the kitchen. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

I was painfully shy growing up, maybe partly to do with my birthmark and being quite a chunky kid. It took a lot to try something outside my comfort zone, even talking to people I didn’t know. So my advice would be, learn to laugh at yourself and don’t be afraid to fail, I think it’s just as relevant to 10 year old Liam as it is today. It is certainly something I want to impress on my son and future children.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I am in no way a good singer. Not surprising - but I did sing during my wedding speech, partly in tribute to my beautiful and talented wife who is a wonderful singer and partly to shoehorn in one of my favourite songs - All I Want Is You - by Barry Louis Polisar. Some very appropriate lyrics for the person you want to spend your life with.

What is your favourite place?

It either has to be Lake Windermere in the Lake District or Vancouver. Both are beautiful places to visit with stunning scenery and excellent beer! Much easier to get to the Lake District but Vancouver probably edges it for the ice hockey. 


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