Natalie Chapman

BSc (Hons) (1995)

What is your current position, and what do you do?
I’m the Managing Director of gemaker, an award-winning technology commercialisation company. Researchers and inventors create innovations with potential to solve real-world problems and make life better for all. My role is to find the right market for these innovations, educate the market about their benefits, and connect the innovators with funding, customers and other intermediaries to turn their ideas into realities. I also mentor the next generation of technology transfer professionals.

I do my best to help innovators achieve their optimal commercial outcome, whether this is a spin-off from a research organisation, growing sales of their product or service, licensing agreements, or sale of a business. By promoting technology transfer from the lab into the world of commerce, I help to create and grow the next generation of Australian industries and jobs, and to enhance lives with new and improved products and services.
How did you transition into this current role from a science degree?
Local jobs in chemistry were rare when I was living in Wollongong, so I looked for roles that required my broader skill set and work experience. I applied for a role in the marketing department of the University of Wollongong, which involved leading a team of university students to visit schools and careers expos, to talk with high school students about life at uni, as well as arranging tours of the campus. Meanwhile, I completed a Masters in Commerce (Marketing), which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Later, I took up a role at ANSTO that combined technical work with business development. I operated a surface science instrument for three years, and then spent seven years helping ANSTO researchers to grow businesses taking new technologies to market.

I founded gemaker in 2011, because I knew that technology transfer is generally under-resourced in Australian research organisations.
How have you used the skills/knowledge that you acquired, from studying chemistry, in your current role?
A chemistry degree is intellectually rigorous and gave me an excellent grounding in problem solving skills, plus the ability to analyse information and write reports. I use these skills daily to address the challenges faced by gemaker and our clients.

When I started my first marketing role, I ran all of my marketing events and programs like a science experiment. I: (i) conducted background research into my hypothesis (idea), (ii) ran the event and collected data to measure its success, (iii) analysed the data to evaluate the event (what worked and what didn’t), and (iv) made recommendations for improvements. I see good marketing as a science based on careful study of consumer behaviour.
What achievement are you most proud of?
My proudest achievement has been proving that I could develop a successful business with staff working from home, around their life. gemaker’s flexible employment model is project-based, not hours-based, so we employ qualified and experienced people who don't want rigid jobs, but still seek meaningful careers. gemaker brings untapped STEM talent – mostly women – back into the workforce to grow new Australian industries.

My core staff is based in Sydney, but other team members have home offices around Australia. Consequently, gemaker is more agile than competitors, matching the makeup of our project team, and the quality and scope of our services, to each client’s circumstances. I've proved that this progressive business model is sustainable, and I strive to inspire others to adopt it.
What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
A science degree is fantastic for understanding the world better and learning how to solve complex problems, analyse situations, think logically, and base your opinions and decisions on facts. A science degree can take you anywhere. You might end up in research, or you might work in industry, create a start-up, or become head of product development or CEO in an established company, or you might seek to influence science policy and end up as Prime Minister! Anything is possible.

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