High-flying graduate returns and tells students 'take risks'

  • Date

    Wed 24 Nov 21

Dr Jason Neale

An high-flying entrepreneur has returned to The University of Essex and urged students to “take risks” and make the most of their studies.

Dr Jason Neale made the bold comments when he returned to the Colchester Campus where he studied for his PhD in Electronic Systems Engineering.

He had flown over from Canada to tour his former university, which he left in 1999, and share his knowledge honed from decades of business experience.

The tech expert, who is a part-owner of EFL Championship side Peterborough United FC, also praised the university for combining research and commerce.

He said: “It’s fantastic to come back here, a real highlight was seeing how much has changed. There has been so much transformation here.

“I just met some of the students and told them I did some very interesting and innovative research here, but there was no conduit to take it and turn it into a business.

“A number of years after I finished my PHD I found an SME doing exactly what I researched, and it made me wish that there was something here to attract people to be a tech entrepreneur with their research. This exists now, which is fantastic.

“I think the campus now is reformed, which is fantastic, and I love the innovation hub with all the tech and other companies that are here now.

“The university provides a real pathway for students that have an idea, or interesting tech and they want to be an entrepreneur.”

Dr Neale toured the campus earlier this month and spoke to student start-ups, visited his old labs and even popped into the library to read his PhD.

The award-winning businessman did have one regret from his salad days in Colchester – he wished he enjoyed himself more.

He said: “My advice to younger students is that I wish I had more fun when I was here.

“I was on a three-year scholarship from the BBC to do my PhD and I was keen to focus on that.

“I should’ve taken another two or three months to enjoy the clubs that are here, the reality is I sat in a lab for three years.

“If I could do it again, I wish I had more fun - if I could unwind that experience that is what I’d do.

“My advice is to mix work and pleasure, even a little bit.”

And added: “I would also tell the students that they shouldn’t be afraid to take risks but also accept life doesn’t work out. Sometimes you have to pivot and do something else.

“That could be something else in business or changing your business or changing your career path.

“It is okay to fail, we are brought up in the UK to avoid failure and I don’t think that’s a very healthy thing.

“Sometimes we need to embrace when something didn’t work and move on.”

He was invited to the university by John Stenhouse, Business Support Manger, at the University Enterprise Zone.

Dr Neale is working with the enterprise zone to develop innovative companies and talent.

He said: “Jason Neale is a co-founder of OKR Financial, a Canadian based investment funder of innovative businesses and a registered investor on the Angels@Essex equity investment platform at the University of Essex.

“We are working with Jason’s team to secure significant funding for our platform supported businesses which aligns with our other programmes of support to innovative ideas.

“Looking to the future, we welcome the support that Jason and his team can provide to our scale-ups, spin-outs and creative technologies.”