Industrial Fellow: Sara Ridley
Company: Autocraft Solutions Group
Company industry: Manufacturing
Company size: 200-500 employees (UK)
Company founded: 2010
University: University of Strathclyde
I started my career right after leaving school, through a manufacturing apprenticeship. After a decade in the industry, I crossed paths with researchers from the University of Strathclyde, who were gathering industry data. When they ran the resulting research papers by me, I immediately recognised that the industrial perspective was missing, and was able to provide some key insights.
The team at Strathclyde told me about the Royal Commission’s Industrial Fellowship: that it would allow me to complete a PhD while staying at my job. At this point in my thirties and raising four young boys, I could only make time for a PhD if I could conduct research during working hours. The Fellowship’s funding ensured that my company could afford to let me do exactly that: they were highly supportive, recognising that my gaining academic knowledge would benefit the company in the long run.
The Fellowship benefitted my career both in the immediate and long term. The industrial perspective of my PhD research made it stand out, and I was able to present at a major remanufacturing conference in Japan. I also won a Rematec Award. The topics I explored in my research are still applicable today and I keep up to date on the latest academic developments and trends.
When I joined Autocraft Solutions Group in 2018, the company immediately saw value in one person having both academic and practical perspectives. My work here has given them confidence that the Fellowships add value; we have since employed another Industrial Fellow.
One of the Commission’s values is to augment diversity in STEM, both in academia and in industry. Likewise, advocating for diversity in STEM has been a consistent presence in my career. I am a STEM Ambassador and volunteer at local schools and universities, running after-school activities and presenting at events for girls aged 8 to 16 that aim to change perceptions about engineering. STEM careers open doors, enabling international travel and collaboration with diverse groups of people.
At Autocraft Solutions Group, we have consistently used gender-neutral language in our job advertisements and position diversity as one of our strengths. This effort has led to tangible results and today I am fortunate to work with some incredibly bright young women.