Ian Campbell

BioLeader Interview – Ian Campbell (December 2020)

Dr Ian Campbell is the recently appointed Chief Business Officer (CBO) with LifeArc and is responsible for business development and partnerships – a key component in accelerating the translation of life sciences innovation into benefits for patients.

Ian was previously interim executive chair at Innovate UK, and before that Director for Health and Life Sciences. Prior to Innovate, Ian was Chief Executive of Arquer Diagnostics, a company developing and commercialising immunoassay tests for cancers of the urogenital tract. A graduate of the University of Glasgow, Ian holds a PhD in Biochemistry.

Key milestones in your career journey to date?

  • First in my family to graduate, twice; culminating in a PhD in Biochemistry from Glasgow.
  • Moving into the commercial world 20+ years ago enabled involvement with the development of many innovative technologies with organisations like The Automation Partnership (TAP).
  • An early recognition that you cannot be an expert in all technologies; but you can repurpose your leadership skills to fit different organisations.
  • The value of inspiring others through leadership rather than doing it myself.

Who has had the greatest influence over your career?

  • My PhD supervisor, Professor Gwyn Gould, for his faith and confidence in me.
  • Richard Archer, CEO of TAP, who encouraged me to join as a Consultant and broaden my understanding of different technologies; followed by Akubio which introduced me to SMEs and fund raising.
  • Sandy Primrose who catalysed my first CEO role at Arquer Diagnostics, challenging and supporting me in equal measure.
  • Phil Smith ex-Chairman and CEO at Cisco who has acted as my mentor at Innovate UK.

Your approach to spotting and developing top talent?

  • Reflect on what is needed within a team, evaluating complementary skills, ambition, enthusiasm and capacity to grow; and delegate decision making.
  • When I moved to Innovate UK in 2018 as Director of Health & Life Science, this approach encouraged success within the team, playing to strengths and achieving this in their own way.

What attributes make an outstanding leader in today’s world?

  • Strong EQ goes a long way in understanding people and colleagues, their likes and dislikes, and encourages outstanding contribution.
  • Taking into account that we all live our lifes differently and are individuals.
  • Lead by example and don’t upset too many people on the way up.

What is our industry’s contribution to improving climate change?

  • Our industry has been wasteful of plastic in order to achieve compliance and results.
  • Reduce use of single use plastics whilst developing our skills at recycling; to change this, regulations need to be changed, especially for medical devices.

How do you create a culture of continual learning, innovation and curiosity?

  • The use of technology will underpin much of this, ensuring we remain relevant:
    • Eliminating routine roles.
    • Making the workplace fun, interesting, interactive, and dynamic.

What’s your hidden talent or something that might surprise others about you?

  • As a student in Glasgow, I decided to become a qualified football referee as we were able to get free food from the Casinos after midnight!

Thoughts on the current funding model for early stage companies?

  • Create a more investible proposition by developing mature IP; which will derisk the business and make follow-on funding more secure.
  • Public funding agencies have a role in this process, working in partnership with early stage company boards, providing loans and grants, and creating greater confidence for VCs to invest.

What will be the biggest technological transformation in the industry over the next 5 years?

  • Use of AI data and remote data analysis will lead to improved clinical decision making and ultimately better outcomes for patients.

Your views on encouraging volunteering amongst colleagues?

  • Actively encourage passionate volunteering amongst colleagues which will develop new skillsets.
  • Internships should always be paid roles, not voluntary, unpaid labour.

Your legacy to the sector?

  • Evolving Innovate UK from grant funder to creating confidence amongst investors and piloting new initiatives; such as innovative loans, encouraging more women and young entrepreneurs into the sector.
  • Catalyse teams to develop and build relationships; encouraging healthy challenge and different outcomes.

Your simple philosophy on life?

  • Don’t ask anyone to do anything you would not do yourself.

Words of wisdom?

  • Best Advice I was given: “I would rather give you a speeding fine than a parking ticket” – get on with it!
  • Advice I’d give: Keep it simple, stupid (KISS).
  • What I wish I’d known: At the start of my degree, and where I am today; that achievement far outweighs what I ever expected.