Staff Profile

Meet Anisoara Nicol, Business Development Manager - Health

28 July 2022
Anisoara Nicol is part of the Business Development team, working in the health space to link University research to real world applications.

What would you like people to know about the Business Development Team and what they do?

We help develop academic ideas in the health space with a view to seeing their real-world potential realised. This starts with facilitating connections between people, both within the University of Ƶ| Waipapa Taumata Rau and with external stakeholders.

Being able to make a difference by joining these dots is exciting. We work with the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and right across the University to gain a wider view of the skill sets out there and the real-world influences they may have. This means helping early- to mid-career academics understand what they can do with their work and how much further they can reach, or for those who already have a standing, facilitating the practical application of their idea.

The ideas we work with are deliverable but usually not yet commercialisable. If they have the potential to be commercialised, we may pass them onto the UniServices Commercialisation Team, which specialises in this.

How did you get into this type of work?

After I finished my studies, I went into public funding in the UK for a few years. When I returned home, I started a role at UniServices as a contracts manager and eventually switched to business development. I’ve always worked in the health space and have been with UniServices for five years.

How do you work with your stakeholders in the health system?

Our engagement is quite broad – it may be with Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora, the Ministry of Health or a variety of other health or insurance organisations. Usually an academic has come up with an idea, and for each project we roll out, we generally work with one funder, such as a community supplier of health services. For us, it’s about connecting early to find out exactly what they are looking for. In some cases we are able to present them with a solution for a problem they didn’t know they had or help with something requiring quick implementation.

How do you work with academics and researchers?

It depends on how long they’ve known us and how much they’ve engaged with us in the past. We spend a lot of time meeting academics to better understand their research and what capabilities the University has. This helps us know what skills exist across the whole University. It’s particularly valuable to early- to-mid career researchers trying to find their path. During a conversation there may be a moment where I see the needs of an academic and a funder potentially aligning and that’s the opportunity to check if my instinct is right, make introductions, and see what we can do. In a way, it’s like matchmaking.

More established researchers may already have extensive networks, but we can still add value if their project is complex or multinational. Even when we don’t have direct access to the wider networks they may need, we often know who does. This allows them to broaden their impact, access more funding and really pursue their passion projects.

What’s something that really stands out about your work in this role?

The thing I get quite excited about is the work we’re currently doing in ageing, where the academics are leading the way in using co-creation with different stakeholders to underpin ground-breaking research. In ageing, rather than looking at one age group, we study all the life stages and the developmental origins of health and disease.

When it comes to older people, there are a whole lot of different teams around the University looking at what we can do to help them live healthier, fulfilled lives and stay in the community longer instead of thinking of retirement as a full stop. Having older people continue to work if it suits them – known as the ‘silver economy’ – also has many positive effects for communities and the economy.

The Business Development Team is split up into research themes, and while my focus is on ageing, other members of the team work on women’s health, mental health and behaviour change, drug development and future therapies. They’re wide, overlapping themes which allow us to collaborate and creates a broad stream of work.

What motivates you to do what you do?

I was always interested in health as a topic. I did my PhD in sleep and circadian rhythms with the Department of Anaesthesiology and found the interplay between our physical and mental health fascinating as it involves both our physical selves and the environment we are in. However, academia wasn’t for me.

In this role I get to see tangible results, even if they are over the long term, which is often the nature of health research. I’m also surrounded by people who love their work and are very passionate about some quite niche areas and though my own focus is wider, it’s great to gain some understanding of all those areas and have a jack-of-all-trades point of view.

Both the researchers I work with and my business development colleagues are in their roles to make a difference and change people’s lives. It’s lovely to be part of that, even when I’m a small part of the process. I also enjoy the variety of this role – you’re not doing the same thing two days in a row, ever. We work on different projects, models and funding mechanisms, with each funder having a different way of working. They all have different needs and we work to tailor our offering accordingly.

What do you do for fun?

I like creative writing, spending time with friends and keeping fit. I also love a good wine trail.