We welcome Bonnie Dean OBE, Chief Executive of the Bristol and Bath Science Park, to our regular series of interviews with leading figures in the South West business community.
Hello Bonnie, tell us about the Bristol and Bath Science Park and your role as Chief Executive
The Bristol and Bath Science Park is an estate covering 60 acres in North Bristol. It is dedicated to supporting high-tech businesses through each stage of their development by providing flexible space. We have had strong interest from early stage technology companies and have let the majority of our space in the first year. We are currently looking to expand the estate with new buildings. Every day is different for me, but I spend much of my time communicating about the park, both marketing the park to prospective clients and making sure that we’re providing what occupiers need.
How has the economic recession impacted your business?
I was pleased and surprised by the speed in which the first buildings were taken up: with the current economic climate, we expected the going to be slow and difficult. It has demonstrated that there was a gap in the market for facilities geared for early stage companies. . The challenge for us is financing new building projects as investors are more risk averse in today’s market.
What challenges are you facing over the next 12 months?
Our research has indicated that there is demand for two types of new buildings: one centred on workshop / laboratory facilities for early stage wet-lab companies, the other on office / collaborative workshops for emerging technologies, such as robotics and autonomous systems. It is unlikely that these will be funded purely through public sector finance.
Do you think that the government should intervene more?
The Government has a good track record of supporting scientific research, which can be seen by the number of citations and patents when compared to other advanced economies. One area that needs more attention is the so called ‘valley of death’ between technology being discovered in research institutions and its implementation in industry. This is a very difficult area because research institutions are not set up to scale ideas and industry often finds new research too risky from a commercial perspective. The Government could ‘de-risk’ this process by working with industry to create physical clusters where a number of companies can come together to collaborate on new technologies and share the risk.
What is your view on the South West business scene?
The South West economy is robust and diverse. We have a high percentage of small companies compared to the rest of the country, which means the economy is flexible. We succeed in many different sectors from tourism to high-tech manufacturing and it is a real strength to not be dependent on any one particular sector.
Do you have any Non-Executive Directorships?
I have a number of Non-Exec roles that cover the private and public sectors.
Do you have any advice that you’d pass on to a newly appointed company director?
The most important thing is to make sure that you have a strong and balanced senior management team.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy walking, tennis, theatre and travel amongst other interests.
Who is your hero/personal inspiration?
There are a number of individuals that I have admired throughout my career, but I do not have one particular idol.
What is on your I-Pod and what are you reading right now?
I like many different types of music,, but I particularly enjoy opera. I have just finished reading “Dear Zari” by Zarghuna Kargar, which is a collection of stories from when she ran the BBC World Service Woman’s Hour in Afghanistan. She gave Afghan women an opportunity to communicate with each other. A generation of young boys grew up listening to the programme with the grandmothers, so I hope what they heard will be a positive influence.
What has been your experience of working with Moon Consulting?
Moon Consulting are very thorough and always work to very high standards. Vanessa has great interpersonal skills and is very good at reading both people and situations.