Spotlight on... Sam Drake

This week we meet Sam Drake, Policy Support Officer at UCL Innovation & Enterprise. Sam chats to us about his work on UCL’s new Transform programme, which helps staff transform their research into real-world impact, as well as his love for cinema and dramatic Cornish landscapes.

What is your role and what does it involve’

I work in UCL Innovation & Enterprise , part of UCL Research, Innovation and Global Engagement (RIGE), supporting UCL’s Intellectual Property Policy and Disclosure of Conflict and Declaration of Interest Policy. My role involves an enormous variety of things: from organising policy consultation and designing new systems through to creating training and providing 1:1 support to colleagues with policy queries. Generally, I lead projects that enhance the guidance, processes, and resources in a space that supports UCL’s innovation and knowledge exchange activities. It follows that I get to work with an equally wide variety of colleagues: academics, faculties, RIGE, Library, Culture, Collections, and Open Science (LCCOS), Legal Services, HR, ISD, UCL Business (UCLB), and many other areas of UCL besides.  

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

I’ve been at UCL for nearly two years now; by the time this goes out it might be two years and a couple of days! Before this I worked at Pearson running the admissions office of one of their online schools. And before that, I was an early career researcher studying the late Middle Ages (think King Arthur, the Hundred Years’ War, and networks of exchange and interaction).  

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of’ 

At UCL, I’m most proud of the improved support that I’ve developed around disclosures of conflict and declarations of interest. This has involved publishing new guidance, developing new reporting processes, delivering training and launching new drop-in sessions (on the second Thursday of each month) for colleagues with policy queries. I have also led comms campaigns to increase compliance and worked with the Inside UCL Team to create a new system for declaring interests that places the user experience at its heart. There’s always work to do in this space, but we’ve made some big steps forward. Last declaration of interest year we reached 80% compliance, the highest rate ever. I’m aiming that across UCL we’ll beat this figure this declaration year (1 August 2023 - 31 July 2024) - senior staff, please do declare your interests here. 

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

One of the most exciting projects I’m working on involves designing a workshop for UCL’s new programme Transform: Creating impact through knowledge exchange. From 10 June 2024 - 13 June 2024, Transform will bring together experts from across the university with the aim of helping UCL staff transform their research and knowledge into real world impact. It will include training, workshops, and panel discussions around themes as varied as entrepreneurial thinking for all’and community knowledge exchange and societal impact.  

The workshop I’m co-ordinating is titled: ’Big Ideas, Big Impact: Intellectual Property (IP) and knowledge exchange in the arts, culture and heritage’. It considers these themes in the broadest sense, exploring how to successfully take your ideas into the wider world; the benefits of doing this; and the support that’s out there. There’ll be half a dozen speakers and plenty of opportunities for discussion, including a networking reception. It’s scheduled for the afternoon of Wednesday 12 June from 3pm to 5pm - I hope to see you there! You can register to attend Transform via the programme SharePoint site.  

What is your favourite album, film and novel’ 

Album. I’ve got quite eclectic music taste so it’s either Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 2 as played by Lang Lang, David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, Joe Henderson’s Page One, or maybe Led Zeppelin - oh, and anything by Louis Armstrong.  

Film. Any film I see in the cinema - they’re all so much better on the big screen!  

Novel. A very tricky one. I suppose if pressed I’d probably say George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Although it’s not the cheeriest read, every word is perfectly placed and every sentence flawless. For such a short book to pack such a punch is testament to the extraordinary power of good writing (I’d be pleased if I could write half as well!).  

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)’ 

I love a bad joke so it’s hard to pick just one... Maybe: how many ears does Captain Kirk have’ His left ear, his right ear, and his final frontier!  

Who would be your dream dinner guests’ 

I suppose I should say some ’great’ historical figures (the Black Prince, or one of the knights or pirates I studied), or maybe a couple of influential historians and antiquarians (the fifteenth-century antiquary William Worcestre or E.H. Carr of What is History’ fame), but the truth is I’d much rather have dinner with my wife and friends.   

What advice would you give your younger self’ 

Be calmer; difficult things pass, and new and exciting things are just around the corner.  

What would it surprise people to know about you’ 

This is a shameless plug (sorry!) but it might surprise people to know that I’ve written a book: Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity in the Fourteenth Century (Woodbridge, 2019).   

What is your favourite place’   

Anywhere in Cornwall. I love walking my family’s dog across the many contrasting Cornish landscapes, from mighty granitic moors and wild wind-swept headlands through to sheltered coves, sub-tropical valleys, and beaches of almost endless golden sand. It helps when the rain stops, of course! 

  • University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000