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 an Industry Collaboration Manager for the University of Southampton and leads the Future Worlds Medicine initiative. 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 helping create a new culture of entrepreneurship among medical staff and students at the University as the Future Worlds Medicine lead. The initiative, which is tapping into funding from the Medical Research Council, develops new innovations and discoveries into commercial opportunities and industry collaborations through inspiring events, support and a global network of mentors. Aspiring entrepreneurs can apply for engagement funds and benefit from the opportunity to join the Future Worlds Medicine team at major international trade shows.
“What’s particularly exciting about Future Worlds is its unique offering of high profile mentors,” Brigitte adds. “This expertise is helping drive impact from early stage research by creating a bridge between academia and industry. I want to see our ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship growing through Future Worlds Medicine – the sky is the limit.”
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 or support aspiring entrepreneurs through mentoring. You can get in touch with Brigitte using the contact form on this page.
Brigitte urges academics to seriously consider how their research could be propelled forward with the support of Future Worlds Medicine. “Industry has needs and we have answers,” she says. “There are ideas coming out of this University that can benefit people – I really believe that research can profit from engaging with industry and considering possible routes to market.”