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Kaimahi

Staff Profile

Meet Analeise Murahidy, Director of Strategic Growth

25 October 2022
A Q&A with Analeise Murahidy, UniServices director of strategic growth working with the science and engineering faculties.

What would you like people to know about the Business Development Team and what it does?

We’re matchmakers between the University, government and industry. It’s a space steeped in opportunity and possibility and it’s our job to forge partnerships that deliver results and impact. Each business development manager works closely with a cluster of University researchers aligned with their portfolio, getting to know their work inside out. Armed with this kete of knowledge, they find out the needs of government and industry. Matching these needs back with the research capabilities of the University is the point where this constant feedback loop bears fruit.

I lead a team of four business development managers who are broadly aligned with the faculties of science, engineering and the ƵBioengineering Institute. Each one works within an industry sector to understand the market, promote the expertise of our researchers, apply creative thinking to identify new impactful research opportunities and secure funding to make this happen. The team’s portfolios include digital technology (Luke Spencer), environment and cleantech (Howard Zheng), food and agritech (Nick Reilly) and health tech (Hope Harding).

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Tell us about yourself and how you got into this role.

I studied biology at the University of Canterbury and completed my master's in microbial ecology, then taught English in Korea for a year after pulling a flyer off a wall offering free flights and accommodation. I love to travel and was feeling adventurous – it was a great experience.

I moved on to London and was looking around for a job on my O.E. when I landed a role at Imperial College London. I started as a lab research technician, working on asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). I soon found myself at a crossroads, contemplating whether to start a PhD or continue down the path I was on to research management. I chose research management and stayed at Imperial for six years working in different divisions.

Finally, nudged by the global financial crisis, home was calling. Back in New Zealand, I wanted to find a company that wasn’t purely research-based and had a foot in industry and the corporate world – UniServices sits in the space where these worlds meet. I’ve been with UniServices for over 12 years but the variety of roles I’ve held – contracts management, business development and now the director role – make it feel like I’ve constantly been on the move, always learning something new and getting to work with some incredible and talented people. I still love research but being at the forefront of building something new in the business development space is really interesting.

"I get to talk to people who are leaders in their field, pick their brains, find out their vision for the future, then do the same thing with industry. It’s a privilege to be across both worlds – not many people get access to that."

Analeise Murahidy, Director of Strategic Growth

What motivates you to do what you do?

I love research and science. The diversity of the role is the reason I never get bored – there’s always something going on and it’s always a little bit different. I get to talk to people who are leaders in their field, pick their brains, find out their vision for the future, then do the same thing with industry. It’s a privilege to be across both worlds – not many people get access to that.

The work is broad; I needed to upskill quickly and become a generalist, always thinking about what’s possible. It’s a very grey space – not all university and not quite corporate – you have to be comfortable with that and I am because it allows me to move, be fluid and flexible. The biggest challenge is bringing the moving parts together: right concept, right team, right time and the funding to drive it all. This doesn’t always happen first time.

What’s the best-case scenario that can come out of a positive partnership between researchers and industry?

In a word, impact. When industry needs a research-based solution to a particular problem, they will be your end users; they will help define what is needed and translate the research to something useful to people. Impact is a key motivator for academics too. The sweet spot is the crossover where industry reaches into the research world to offer needs-based guidance and their vision of a finished product or solved problem – that’s when collaboration hums.

In many ways we’re trying to promote the unknown and the invisible, future needs that will only make themselves clear as society and research move forward. Research is always about discovery – you don’t always know where you’re going to end up. We need to embrace that uncertainty, alongside our industry partners, and recognise we’re on this journey together. That takes courage because there are no guarantees. What struck me when I returned to New Zealand was how industry-focused our universities are, compared to the UK where they receive much more financial support from the government. Here, university researchers are constantly looking at different sources of funding and building industry networks.

If you could give some advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

Have courage! Just take that step and be brave enough to try something different. Embrace more moments like that time I saw a flyer on the wall and decided to move to Korea. Those scary steps forward are the times when great things happen. I wish I’d taken more of them earlier.