Research Sparks 2018: Dr Valerie Brett

Dr Valerie Brett speaking at Research Sparks 2018

Dr Valerie Brett speaking at Research Sparks 2018

Based at the Centre for Enterprise Development and Regional Economy, Valerie Brett has been a postdoctoral researcher in WIT for the last 7 years


Her academic journey has covered many areas starting with a degree in Maritime Business and Law and Masters in International Shipping from the University of Plymouth. She won a PhD Scholarship from the Irish Marine Institute to explore clustering within the maritime transport sector. During her time in WIT she moved her focus from maritime-based research towards regional policy and development most recently taking a new position as Athena SWAN project manager for WIT.


For Research Sparks, Valerie discusses her research journey, where it all started and how it has changed so much since her undergraduate days. She spent all of her 20's and early 30's in research but started to move away and take up a more of a research support. “I want to highlight that there are far more opportunities available for researchers who wish to get out an explore other professional roles during their career”, she said.

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On completion of her PhD she held a research role at the Irish Marine Development Office (IMDO) which is a regional intermediary dedicated to the development and promotion of Ireland as an international competitive location for transportation and logistical maritime industries. The role involved liaising with industry to inform government on best practice for the point of policy intervention for the development of the industry. This was in early 2008 and when the recession hit Ireland and she found herself unemployed for over 12 months.

Valerie’s first post-doctoral role in WIT was at the Centre for Enterprise Development and Regional Economy (CEDRE), where she worked for 7 years. During that time she worked on a number of EU projects such as the eDIGIREGION project which was a unique collaborative project that brought together four high-potential research-driven clusters in diverse European regions (South East Ireland, Central Hungary, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain and Bucharest-Ilfov, Romania). The aim of eDIGIREGION was to use the triple helix partnership to plan, design and implement an ecosystem of research, innovation, creativity and commercialisation that supports the implementation of the EU Digital Agenda in each of the four regions.

Valerie was also the project Coordinator on the GRUNDTVIG Life Long Learning FIERE (Furthering Innovative Entrepreneurial Regions of Europe) project and held key research positions on the KT Force Project (EU INTERREG IVC), and the Sustainable Learning Networks in Ireland and Wales (SLNIW) project (INTERREG IVA Ireland Wales programme 2007-2013). The aim of FIERE project was to support regional organisations’ employees to behave more entrepreneurially and innovatively within their work environment. The KT Force project aimed to enhance knowledge transfer practices and policies within its partner regions based upon the thematic areas of Technology Licensing, Spin-Off Creation & Entrepreneurship and University-Industry Relations). SLNIW was a longitudinal study conducted over a three year period. We established six learning networks (3 in Ireland and 3 in Wales) consisting of 105 entrepreneurs and SME owner/managers. The principal objective of the study was to understand what makes networks work in order to advise and inform on practice for the creation of sustainable self-facilitated learning networks. The study also investigated the effect of gender and culture on the networking process.

During this time she also started to co-supervise Taught Masters and Masters by Research students and is currently co-supervising 2 PhD students. “My experience has a researcher has been a hugely rewarding and enjoyable experience but I found myself entering a period of change and a shift in career focus”, she said. She continued, “In Jan 2018 I took up a new position of the Athena SWAN project manager for WIT. The Athena SWAN charter was developed in 2005 and open to any university or research institute which is committed to the advancement and promotion of the careers of women in STEMM in higher education and research.”

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