Rhizocore Technologies' office space at Roslin Innovation Centre
Midlothian Science Zone talks with Jessy Ong, Business Development Trainee
Jessy Ong is a Business Development Trainee with Rhizocore Technologies, an applied mycology start-up based at Roslin Innovation Centre, hosted as part of a Food & Agriculture Science Transformer (FAST) programme on Easter Bush Campus in association with Deep Science Ventures.
What has been your career path?
I graduated with an MSc in Marketing and Business Analysis in autumn 2021 from the University of Edinburgh, during which I had the opportunity to produce a company sponsored dissertation with a local tech start-up.
This was my first interaction with start-ups, and I had been enamoured with them ever since. Compared to traditional organisations, start-ups are more flexible, innovative and cooperation based, which I find suited my work style.
Through Graduate Career Advantage Scotland (GCAS), an organisation which funds internships and provides career support to bridge the gap between recent graduates and employers in Scotland, I was able to get an internship with Rhizocore Technologies, a biotech start-up, and have been there ever since.
What work does Rhizocore do and what is your role?
Rhizocore aims to accelerate tree growth and increase soil carbon sequestration through the use of mycorrhizal fungi.
A widespread problem in the tree planting industry is that saplings are often planted in depleted soil leading to low tree survival rates and encouraging heavy use of chemical fertilisers. We provide a natural solution to this problem by inoculating mycorrhizal fungi in our beads and pellets, which can be easily applied during tree planting. The fungi in the beads and pellets then go on to form symbiotic relationships with the sapling which strengthens tree health with the added effect of higher soil carbon sequestration.
I work in the business team and my role incorporates two main responsibilities - market research and day to day administration.
New start-ups rely on grants and investments as their main source of funding before they can go to market. My job revolves around market research to find the product-market fit and show how our innovation can be financially feasible to investors. The research I produce is then summarised and added into slides our pitch deck.
I also conduct day to day administrative tasks such as reconciling bank statements, outreach, and some email correspondences. Sometimes when there are miscellaneous tasks that needs doing, like designing our newsletter or proofreading grant applications, I would be there to help.
What do you enjoy most about a career in a science environment?
It might be hard to imagine working at a start-up without a STEM background, but it is really rewarding.
The team is small, so you interact with everyone both in the business team and the lab team. There’s no rigid structure and you really feel like you can be part the company rather than just being one of the staff in “the marketing team” at a larger organisation.
Also, depending on what the mission of the start-up is, you really feel like your work is making a positive impact to the world. Start-ups work to provide sustainable solutions to current problems in the world.
I work in a start-up that help the world plant healthier trees, and I can see how my work is contributing to this cause.
What are you focused on at the moment and what are your future plans?
As a graduate with only one year of industry experience, my priorities are learning new skills and building up career experience. One of the best parts about working in a start-up is that the work you do is quite dynamic, since the team is small, I am likely offered to help in different areas and take over certain responsibilities.
While most of my time is dedicated to creating investor material (market research and pitch deck creation), sometimes spontaneous tasks come along that I can help with too. For example, the occasional grant application or designing a newsletter. I appreciate the chance to try out new things as this helps me expand my current skill profile.
I enjoy the type of work I do here at Rhizocore and I hope to stay with them for as long as it’s possible. Like many international graduates I’m on a two year visa, my future plans would eventually include having to move to elsewhere that provide me my permission to work.
I joined Rhizocore as I was inspired by their mission to change the way we grow trees - I hope the next step of my journey also takes me to a place where I can be a catalyst for better change in the world.
What do you think are the benefits to a start-up choosing to locate to a science & innovation park?
I think the biggest reason would be the access start-ups have to lab space in a science park. Early start-ups would need an option that provide both office space and lab facilities to set up their experiments and a science park caters to this need.
Another advantage would be the environment, science parks host multiple start-ups in similar stages, this fosters an environment of creativity and support. I am based in the office area doing desk work and I get to connect to other people working in the same space during this time. We sometimes talk during break and I’ve learnt some new topics such as how the venture capital market space works. I believe that our lab team probably have similar experiences when exchanging ideas with the employees that share common lab space.
I think something unique here at Midlothian is that the environment is quite friendly. This may not be true in all science park environments, but I think the management team here puts an effort in organising social events that helps create community here. I know that our lab team sometimes borrow ethanol from other start-ups when we run out and the new shipment haven’t arrived yet which says a lot about type of work space we have here.
What do you enjoy most about working in Midlothian?
I think overall it’s a good working environment for me. I work in an open-plan office area that are in addition to the on-site lab facilities available. There are also more private areas for taking calls or having meetings.
The shared office space I’m based in has a very spacious layout with floor to ceiling windows that give a beautiful view of the Pentland hills. I had previous experiences working in windowless and cramped office spaces, so my current working environment is much more enjoyable and precious to me.
I also like that I have access to other areas of the University campus such as the cafeteria as this provides an alternative to bringing lunch to work and areas to site away from my desk.
Easter Bush Campus also accommodates the veterinary school and as I live in an area with many students, there are convenient bus routes I can take to get to Roslin Innovation Centre. There is also parking available for those who require to travel by car.
For further information, please contact:
Roslin Innovation Centre
The University of Edinburgh
Easter Bush Campus
Midlothian, EH25 9RG
t: +44 (0)131 651 9000
Roslin Innovation Centre
- The University of Edinburgh
- Easter Bush Campus
- Midlothian EH25 9RG
Campus Operating Officer and Interim CEO Roslin Innovation Centre: Val Hughes-White
T: +44 (0)131 651 9000
Midlothian Science Zone
- Roslin Innovation Centre
- The University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Campus
- Midlothian, EH25 9RG, Scotland
Enquiries: Project Team
T: +44 (0)131 651 9000
- Work in Midlothian
- Locate in Midlothian
- Opportunities in Midlothian
Enquiries: Project Team