Claire Holt is a partnership development manager at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), with over 25 years’ experience working within the chemical industry and business management, a passion for all things science and a determination to share her love of the industry. She also runs Flashbang Science, a mobile lab which visits schools to inspire children to engage with science.
Claire achieved a degree in chemical engineering at the Cork Institute of Technology and has chartered membership of the Institute of Chemical Engineers (MIChemE).
She began her career as a practising chemical engineer at companies including British Alcan, Fisons Pharmaceuticals and Ciba-Geigy, before joining multinational pharmaceutical company Zeneca (later AstraZeneca) as the technical operations manager. A position she held for seven years, Claire managed all internal start-up projects through to prototypes, from the agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and specialties businesses globally, as well as leading the associated technical teams.
A role as senior operations director at chemical manufacturer Avecia followed, where Claire was responsible for a large team of research, process development, commercial and manufacturing staff. She progressed to vice president of electrophotography at Fujifilm Imaging Colorants Ltd for three years, before reverting back to working with private start-ups and university spin-outs.
Claire joined UCLan in 2015 from Regenerate Lancashire, where she was principal business advisor helping businesses to grow by supporting the access of grants and funds, innovation and advice.
When her daughter remarked how boring she thought science was when leaving primary school, a horrified Claire was determined to prove her wrong, so in 2010 she set up Flashbang Science – the perfect outlet for her passion. It’s a science provider including a mobile lab which visits primary schools, giving children a hands on experience in all things scientific.
“It’s so important to engage with children at the right time, at primary school age, by capturing their imaginations before they embark on secondary school, a time at which they’re beginning to think about what they want to do with their lives and careers. Through Flashbang, we can help children realise the wonders of science, building interest and enthusiasm at a formative young age.”
Based in Rossendale, it’s an award-winning business, which received Lancashire County Council’s Give it a Go accolade in 2010.
Claire is the University’s partnership development manager for science and technology, working to realise ideas from academics by linking them commercially and with external partners. It’s her job to identify new organisations to work with and to assist with projects and opportunities including training, consultancy and student placements. She’s also involved with managing and contributing to the University’s innovation strategy development.
However, her first involvement with the University came prior to her new role, when in 2010 Claire collaborated with two games design students, mentoring them and working with a programmer to produce a series of science based games for Flashbang Science’s website.
Women in STEM
As a successful woman in the field herself, Claire is naturally keen to address the imbalance between girls and boys in STEM subjects. “There’s a lot of good work that goes into encouraging girls to pursue these subjects and combat the stereotypes which may be acting as barriers. However it’s a shocking statistic that 20 per cent of physics A Level students are girls, a statistic which has not changed for 20 years. In 2011, 46 per cent of schools in England sent no girls to study the subject at that level.”
Claire’s also an ambassador for STEMFirst, an initiative which aims to grow science, technology, engineering and maths in Lancashire. Through the programme, Claire visits secondary schools and speaks to pupils, to challenge stereotypes young people have about STEM and help them understand what a career in STEM is like.
“We must continue to do the good work in promoting how fun and interesting a career in the sciences can be, to both boys and girls. I’m passionate about breaking down barriers and helping everyone get the most out of science.”