UCL News


Spotlight on Celia Caulcott

25 May 2016

This week the spotlight is on Celia Caulcott, Vice-Provost (Enterprise).

Celia Caulcott

What is your role and what does it involve?

As Vice-Provost (Enterprise), I work with my team to think about, support and help facilitate the UCL innovation agenda, which in turn is about helping UCL to make the very greatest difference for the good that we can from everything we are. It might be easier to say that my role is about supporting UCL to make a real impact. Incredibly exciting!

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I have been at UCL for all of 7 months. My previous role was as Executive Director, Innovation and Skills at the BBSRC, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

The BBSRC is one of the UK's main science funding bodies. There I was responsible for thinking about how the BBSRC could support innovation from bioscience research - making a difference for the good (there is a theme here). I also led the BBSRC policy and strategy for PhD training and was extending this to think about how we supported postdoctoral and early career researchers. Whilst I don't have this in my UCL portfolio, I do have entrepreneurship, which gives me the same sense of privilege in being involved in the careers of students.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Building my senior team at BBSRC. They were incredible, and it was working with them that we achieved a series of real, significant changes for UK bioscience.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of you to-do list?

On day one at UCL, the Provost asked me to take on the leadership of the UCL 2034 London strategy. This is both very exciting, as the role of a university in its economic and social context is really important, and very challenging. I like working with teams, and I didn't know anyone at UCL really, let alone who the right people were for the team. I've struck lucky in that the team I gathered for the London Strategy development and delivery is fabulous. We have been consulting on UCL's involvement in London, and over the next few weeks will be mapping our strengths onto those of London, and seeing how our challenges and those of London map to each other as well.

We will be back in the autumn with more consultation, all reflecting how important London is to UCL and how closely embedded in London UCL is. On top of my to-do list is supporting my innovation and enterprise team as they think about entrepreneurship, including how we reach 35,000 students with ideas and opportunities for this, and how we use BASE KX (a 2,000m2 facility I discovered I had under my care) to enable our activities. Also the reorganisation that I am undertaking, and how we can support people through this. Finally, to be honest, the university planning round and finances are quite central to my thinking at the moment, particularly as this is new to me.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Recently I have been listening to the Bach Cello suites, Yo-Yo Ma performing them. But if I have a favourite album it might be Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner. My favourite film might be Legally Blond (such a great story of female empowerment) or Calendar Girls (a great celebration of women, and I remember the Radio 4 Today programme interview in real life) or maybe Pride (part of my fascination for films about the events in my own life time. It makes me laugh and cry and I know one of the people in the story). 

And perhaps my favourite novel, one I return to time and time again, is Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey - a lovely story of an immensely talented young woman finding her way forward. There are some themes here too, I feel.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

This question has caused me the most trouble as I am not really very good at jokes. However, how about:

If a red house is made of red bricks, and a blue house is made of blue bricks, what is a green house made of?


Who would be your dream dinner guests?

People who enjoy good food, good wine, good conversation, and don't have too much ego. But if you would like some names, then Libby Purves - she wrote some of the best advice on families and children, including the honest statement that "real families keep their possessions on the stairs". Also Andrew Marr, whose writing about the history of modern Britain has helped me understand our country much better, Ottoline Leyser (such a wonderful scientist), Peter Day, the Radio 4 presenter, to hear more about innovation and business across the world, Mark Elder (for me to learn more about opera) and Dianna Bowles to talk about Herdwick sheep. And Judi Dench, of course.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Understand and think about the bigger picture. And remember that although stuff happens, things generally turn out ok.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Last year I made five different kinds of pickle and three different kinds of jam with fruit and vegetables from our garden.

Oh, and I fall off bicycles quite regularly.

What is your favourite place?

Wherever my family are. But if we could be in Cumbria, in the Lickle Valley, that would be even better.