Brigitte Lavoie is creating connections between academia and industry that are helping improve people’s lives through ground-breaking health research. She is facilitating new partnerships in the health and pharma scene as a Collaboration Manager for the University of Southampton’s Research and Innovation Services unit. A passionate neuroscientist, she has contributed to biomedical research in Canada, Denmark and more recently the UK with the Southampton University Hospital NHS Trust.
Brigitte was raised in Québec, Canada, and was determined to become an astronaut or an aerospace engineer as a child. She went on to instead examine the engineering of the human body and completed degrees in Neurobiology at Canada’s Université Laval. “We are a machine with connections and wires,” she says. “So I was able to study the most incredible machine in the world.”
Inspired by her subject, Brigitte stayed in Québec a further five years and worked at a Human Performance Laboratory as she applied herself to a PhD exploring the neurophysiological processes that enable humans to walk.
Her promising work was rewarded with a fellowship that triggered a move across the Atlantic to London, where she invested two years in postdoctoral research into brain imaging of spinal cord injuries at the Medical Research Council’s Cyclotron Unit at Hammersmith Hospital. Her pathway into an academic career continued in a post as an Assistant Professor for Research at Aalborg University in Denmark, working in the Centre for Sensory-motor interactions.
Brigitte returned to the UK at the turn of the millennium and moved to the south coast, where she investigated the neurophysiology of the auditory system as a Healthcare Scientist at the Southampton University Hospital NHS Trust and established a longstanding association with the University of Southampton as an Honorary Fellow.
Her transition from examining the connections of the human brain to creating connections between research communities started in 2010, when she joined the Society of British Neurological Surgeons as a Research Development Manager. Based in Southampton, Brigitte helped develop the research network and was recruited by the University of Southampton in 2013 to serve a similar purpose within its Research and Innovation Services team.
“I’m a matchmaker”, she explains. “My role is to scout the University so we can match our scientists’ expertise with the needs of the industry. What motivates me is wanting to see human beings getting better. There’s too much information that will die in universities if we can’t get it out. One way of getting it out is to work with industry or to spin out.”
Brigitte is looking to network with academics working in the health and pharma sector, and reach industry professionals who could benefit from collaborating with University research. You can get in touch with Brigitte using the contact form on this page.
“Most of my role is understanding the University’s research and helping it move forward,” she adds. “A lot of this is early stage research in our sector so – while we tend to work in collaborations with industry – very often academics need to protect their ideas so I’m handing them over to people who can help protect and commercialise their ideas. I’m also striving to support the growth of smaller businesses and am regularly linking SMEs with people inside the University.”
Brigitte urges academics to seriously consider how their research could be propelled forward with the support of industry. “It’s a no-brainer,” she says. “Industry has needs and we have answers. There are ideas coming out of this University that can benefit people – I really believe that research can profit from engaging with industry.”