Strathclyde InspireCase study - Caitlin Stewart
Caitlin Stewart is a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Strathclyde, and her PhD research focuses on the design and development of a decontamination technology for blood transfusion products. She’s also a Project Development Manager at biomimetics company uMIST Technologies, where she leads the R&D of a novel respiratory drug delivery device.
After studying Biomedical Engineering at University of Strathclyde, Caitlin discovered a passion for innovation, clinical research, and the design and development of biotechnology. She therefore decided to pursue a PhD in the University’s ROLEST laboratory. The lab is dedicated to developing novel disinfection and sterilisation technologies for public health applications. It is the ideal fit for Caitlin’s research, which focuses on the development of a novel decontamination technology for blood transfusion products. This technology aims to reduce transfusion-transmitted infections, wastage of valuable blood products and improve overall blood safety.
During the first year of her PhD studies, Caitlin came across a poster advertising Strathclyde Inspire’s Exploring Entrepreneurship programme and took it as a sign – literally – to embark on her entrepreneurial journey. Having a passion for both biotechnology and business, she was eager for the opportunity to learn how to merge both interests.
Through the Exploring Entrepreneurship programme, Caitlin collaborated with a team of other students to create a business idea. Due to Caitlin’s knowledge in Hematology, she was aware of the obstacles faced in transfusion medicine, including the demand for blood donations. As only 4% of people in Scotland regularly donate blood, her team decided to provide a solution to encourage and support more people to donate.
After creating a business model, conducting market research, and delivering a successful pitch, the team, FUIL (which is Gaelic for ‘blood’), were announced as the 2019 winners of the Exploring Entrepreneurship programme. The key to their success, Caitlin believes, was each team member offering a different skill set. The team were able to merge their knowledge of business, healthcare, and computer science to develop the healthcare app. With the support and guidance of Strathclyde Inspire, FUIL became a start-up company.
Caitlin successfully broke into industry with the knowledge and tools she acquired working with Strathclyde Inspire and as a result of her participation in the Exploring Entrepreneurship programme. The exposure she was given to networks and mentors also led to her being introduced to Swedish Biomimetics 3000 AB – a company dedicated to developing sustainable green-tech, inspired by nature. In October 2020, the company hired Caitlin as their Business Development Manager, and after a year of industry experience, she was promoted to Project Development Manager at uMist Technologies Ltd, one of their operating companies.
Discussing the experience, she said:
Truthfully, I can say I would not be where I am today if not for my involvement with Strathclyde Inspire and the support they provided. Engaging with the team allowed me to gain confidence to effectively communicate my thoughts and ideas, allowing me to grow in my career.
She offered some advice to budding entrepreneurs:
Don’t let a lack of experience stop you from getting out there, and network as much as possible!