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Future Leaders Fellowships: Success Stories in Business - Meet Declan

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The Future Leaders Fellowships scheme (FLF) supports talented researchers and innovators to deliver ambitious programmes of work to accelerate their careers and establish themselves as the leaders of tomorrow.

The scheme is open to applicants from businesses and academia, across all disciplines and sectors.

In this blog series, we will be talking to some of the successfully awarded business-based fellows to find out more about what they have planned for their fellowships over the next four years.

This week we will hear from Declan Carolan of FAC Technology, who is leading on developing greener cleaner materials for use in the aerospace and automotive industries.

Meet Future Leader Declan Carolan from FAC Technology

Hi Declan, thank you for taking the time to speak to us about your fellowship. Please could you give us an overview of the work you will be doing over the next four years?

My fellowship title is ‘Greener, Cleaner Composites’. When people think of composites, they think of carbon fibre which you see in things like Formula 1. But all the plastic that holds these fibres together is made from oil which is a non-renewable resource that causes significant harm to the planet.

We’re trying to make a high value structural composite for the aerospace and automotive industries from a bio-derived resin, which is a renewable resource. This will have a far-reaching impact, as these industries strive towards reducing their carbon footprint and becoming more sustainable.

Within the Fellowship, are you planning to collaborate or work with any other organisations, such as a university or supply-chain businesses?

I am a visiting academic at Imperial College London (ICL), where I deliver a course with the CEO of FAC Technology on Composite Materials. So, we work quite closely with a number of academics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Aeronautical Engineering and Chemical Engineering at ICL and we hope to collaborate with them as the project progresses.

What previous experience do you have and how did you draw upon this to demonstrate your potential as a Future Leader?

Before the FLF, I was the recipient of two previous Marie Curie Fellowships – one in industry at FAC Technology and one in academia at Imperial College London. During these fellowships I was able to supervise a large number of people and observe the leadership styles of a lot of different people. The Japanese call it ‘stealing with the eye’ - seeing what works and what doesn’t work.

From this I was able to develop my own leadership style and I successfully put that across in my fellowship application.

What type of leader do you hope to become at the end of your fellowship?

I think being a leader is about encouraging those under you to become better than you. That’s my leadership style – I want everyone that works for me to ultimately become better than me.

I would like to be a leader that leads by example, so I always avoid asking people to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. I’ve tried to take the things that work from experience of previous mentors and leaders – and I’m sure there’s elements of my leadership style that work, and don’t work – but hopefully by the end of this fellowship that will be rectified through trial and error.

How will your organisation support you?

My organisation will support me through mentorship from directors and by allowing me to step up and make commercial and strategic decisions, under supervision.

One of the things I wanted to do as part of my fellowship is a formal course on leadership to understand what ‘best in class’ looks like, and what ‘leadership’ actually means, so the fellowship has enabled me to seek out these opportunities.

What advice would you offer to potential FLF applicants?

Try to think of leadership in terms of everything – leadership in as wide a scope as possible. It’s not just leadership for you, it’s leadership for everybody. If you have a team working for you, where are they going to be at the end of the fellowship? Are they going to be doing what you tell them or will they have developed some degree of autonomy?

And finally, what is the best thing about being a Future Leaders fellow?

The freedom to pursue what your interests.

Find out more about the Future Leaders Fellowships.


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