Natalie Chapman is known as one of the most powerful women in STEM in Australia, dedicated to taking Aussie tech to the world.
Her award-winning company gemaker provides researchers and innovators with advice, services and training to commercialise new knowledge and tech. gemaker helps develop everything from satellite laser beams for super-fast data to digital tourniquets building bigger muscles, drones that protect wildlife from bushfires, bionic ears made by 3D printing, and high-tech shrink wrap for damaged roofs.
Natalie has two major missions: one is to train researchers and inventors to market themselves so their inventions reach a wide audience. The other mission is to encourage young women and girls to enter the STEM industry. When it comes to women participating in STEM, studies reveal only 14 percent of Australia’s broader STEM workforce is female. What makes this statistic even more disheartening is that research shows diversity at executive and board level leads to better financial outcomes.
Natalie is determined to show girls and young women that being a scientist is far from being a job where you’re stuck in a lab all day. She’s calling for more women to consider working in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Manufacturing).
“A science degree can be a lot of fun. It’s 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,” Natalie says. “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.”
In order for more girls to consider STEM, Natalie says much of the way it’s taught at schools needs to be changed. While students are taught “the basics” Natalie believes much of that can be boring for kids; and it doesn’t need to be.
“For a change in mindset to occur, it needs to start in primary schools, and continue in universities through to researchers. It doesn’t take much to make science fun and exciting. I also want to make sure students in science are learning about marketing and commercialisation early on and that scientists are talking to each other,” Natalie says. “I want to see more students at university actually taking up the combination of science marketing or science business subjects. Science doesn’t just lead to an academic career; you can run your own company. There’s very little visibility in the media of people doing science except for academics and I’d like people to see that it is possible to move between academia and industry.”
Natalie wants people to understand that people studying science are not “stuck in a science lab” – they’re growing knowledge-based businesses in Australia.
“We have a rich history of inventors in Australia and we need to encourage future generations to continue that tradition.”
One of many things that makes Natalie so unique is that she has degrees in both chemistry and marketing. This makes her part of a growing number of women who are ‘tech transfer professionals’, who are dedicated to training researchers and business people to pitch their innovations.
Natalie says there are many great “tech geniuses” with amazing inventions but unless they market themselves and their invention, nobody will know about them.
“At gemaker, we work with these awesome people in science and tech who are inventing incredible things, but we need to get the message out there and into the right hands for it to be taken up and help push our economy forward. Our goal is to help get their innovations out of the lab,” Natalie says. “We’re working to solve a huge problem. We want to be building new industries in Australia out of the research that we have. Our role is to try to accelerate that happening by connecting the right people and ensuring people have the right skills and experience. So we’re training researchers in how to engage with industries better, which is also about bringing marketing into the process.
“A lot of great ideas are missed, simply because they are not marketed – and that’s what we are working to change.”