Fifteen to One | Gareth Scargill

You’ll have heard the name, but what exactly is Nexus and how is it unique to the University of Leeds? New Director, Gareth Scargill, explains all.

Fifteen to One | Gareth Scargill. October 2023

Gareth lifts the lid on our innovation community and discusses its exciting plans for the future. 

You’ll also discover why he’ll soon be pulling on his walking boots and learn more about his love for Barnsley FC!

Can you describe your role in 100 words?

I’m the Director of Nexus and lead a team focusing on collaboration, membership and community. I’m responsible for growing and developing the Nexus community, connecting our member businesses into the expertise, facilities and talent at the University. 

How have your first few weeks in post been?

Busy! Initially, I joined Nexus in January as Deputy Director before being appointed Director at the start of September. During that time, I was trying to observe as much as possible and make some subtle changes to the way we operate. As Director, I’m now focused on making sure we deliver for our members, which is what we’re here to do. We also want to ensure we add value to the University through the connections we make for our members, whether that’s through research funding opportunities, graduate recruitment placements or internships.

What’s really impressed you about Leeds?

As a former Leeds graduate, I’ve been really impressed by how much the campus has grown during my time away and how Leeds, as a city, has changed dramatically. I’ve always been based in Yorkshire during my career and regularly visited the city. I was aware of Nexus before I joined, but perhaps not fully aware of the positive impact the University has on the city, region and beyond. Leeds and the University are thriving right now and it’s an exciting time to return. 

What question have you most frequently been asked in your new role?

It's a question I get asked quite often and that’s: “What is Nexus?” I always answer by saying we’re the University’s innovation hub and community. We’re the interface between industry and academia and we’re here to attract the right businesses to work with our academics and researchers. We’re not just an office and lab space. The building is great, but it’s just the enabler. It’s what happens inside that’s important. We’re a community that has many different moving parts, but we’re focused on three different sectors – HealthTech, Smart Cities and FinTech. 

Nexus is an amazing facility. Can you tell us more about it and how colleagues can get involved with the work that goes on there?

I always like to emphasise that Nexus is not a closed shop – we’re working to bring value and opportunity to the whole University. We’re looking to connect with colleagues that have engaged with us before or people that don’t know about Nexus but want to learn more – we’re open and welcome to everybody. We want to achieve great things together that can benefit our members’ businesses and the University as a collective.

What makes Nexus unique?

Nexus is a huge demonstration of commitment by the University to business engagement that maximises value for both parties. The way in which we work so closely with our member businesses to gain a holistic understanding of their needs and ambitions, I believe, sets Nexus apart. We also want to encourage enterprise from the very start of the undergraduate journey. Spark – the University business start-up service – has a physical base for businesses in Nexus. Many students have worked with our member businesses, from undergraduate placements to PhD researcher internships. Nexus has a huge role to play in encouraging entrepreneurialism at Leeds.

What are you most looking forward to working on?

We’re working hard to build a truly inclusive innovation community at Nexus. We’ve got a big piece of work going on about how our operation and community can be as equal, diverse and inclusive as possible. We’re also focused on growing our three core sectors and engaging with more businesses and researchers working in these areas. We want to take our civic role seriously, to ensure we continue to drive economic and societal impact for Leeds and beyond. We’ve got a busy 12 months ahead, but it’s something we’re really geared up for and will set us up for how we develop Nexus during the next five years. 

Is there something, or someone, that has inspired you in your career?

Professionally, there was a chap called Matt Harrington who was my first Commercial Director at Oxford Innovation Space, where I was the Business Development Director. He really allowed me to express myself and trusted me to make my own judgement calls. He always said you should run your innovation hub like it’s your own business with your own money. I’ve really taken that advice onboard as I’ve moved through my career. He was the one person who really gave me the confidence to be who I am today. 

We all have that professional or personal achievement we’re incredibly proud of – can you tell us yours?

I think one of the things I’m most proud of professionally is during my previous role at Oxford Innovation Space during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was part of the team that helped the business survive. It was a period where if we didn’t take tough decisions, the business could have folded quite easily. As a Commercial Director, I had to take tough decisions that were heartbreaking at times. But we knew we had to take these steps in order to continue. I’m proud of the part I played during that period. 

What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career that you know now?

I wish I’d known more about the power of delegation. I think as a young manager in charge of a team there can be a tendency to think ‘I’m going to do everything’ and ‘I don’t trust anybody else’. You’ve got to allow people the opportunity to prove themselves and make mistakes, which I see as a good thing so long as you learn from them. At the start of my career, I wouldn’t have said that. You’ve got to be able to delegate and trust others because without trust, you have nothing. 

What’s still on your ‘to do’ list on campus?

Recently, I was speaking to the University Librarian and Keeper of the Brotherton Collection, Masud Khokhar, who has invited me to go the Library and have a proper tour and look at the archives. It’s definitely an offer I want to take up! I also really want to visit the M&S archive as well to see what’s in there. 

What do you do to relax away from University life?

Aside from a busy family life, I love to stay active. I’m taking part in the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge in the next few weeks, so I’ve been training for that and trying to get some miles in the legs. I’ll be doing it with family and friends for a cause close to our hearts. I’ve already climbed Snowdon, so hopefully it won’t be too painful! 

Do you have any sporting interests?

I’ve supported Barnsley FC since I was six and regularly attend games with my father. I went to my first game in 1986 where we lost 1-0 to Huddersfield Town. We nearly secured promotion at Wembley last year but, unfortunately, we fell short. I’m confident we’ll make it this year. 

Where’s your favourite travel destination and why?

The best place I’ve ever visited was New Zealand during a gap year after university. I loved the sense of adventure you feel there and enjoyed taking part in bungee jumping and skydiving. The scenery and the people make it such an inspiring place to be, and I loved every minute; I hope to return one day.

What gadget can’t you live without?

My Kindle! I really enjoy reading crime fiction and spy thrillers as a hobby and it helps me relax and forget about the real world, albeit temporarily!

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