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Scientists of the future impress global research and development experts

13 June 2024

Budding young scientists from Hull have been given a unique opportunity to share their inspiring ideas with the leaders behind some of the world’s biggest and best-loved brands.

Reckitt Festival of Science 2

World-leading health, hygiene and nutrition business Reckitt held a Festival of Science as part of its second global The Science Inside Symposium. The three-day symposium brought together 250 Reckitt scientists, partners and leaders from across the globe, in person and online, live from the company’s Hull Campus.

During the Festival of Science, four teams of year 12 engineering students from Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC) in Hull city centre presented their ideas on how Reckitt could become more sustainable in its approach to water, heating, transport and waste to the company’s Global Research and Development (R&D) Leadership Team, led by Chief R&D Officer Dr Angela Naef.

In a separate session, organised through Reckitt’s partnership with Hull and East Yorkshire Children’s University, year five pupils from Rokeby Park Primary School in west Hull were asked to share their ideas on creating a new Reckitt product, or modify an existing one, focusing on target customers, packaging and sustainability.

They too impressed global Reckitt R&D colleagues as part of the Festival of Science element of the event, which celebrated the power of science and aimed to inspire the next generation of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) leaders.

The winning Ron Dearing UTC teams, voted by Reckitt experts, will have one-to-one sessions in coming weeks with the company’s sustainability experts, as prizes for Best Innovation and Best Presentation.

Youngsters from Rokeby Park Primary School will be given a medal and awards for Best Innovation, Best Packaging Design and Best Presentation, alongside a donation from Reckitt for new science equipment at the school.

Dr Naef said: “I’m always blown away by the creativity and boundless, unexpected ideas the students share with us. It’s this little gift of great imagination.

“I fundamentally believe the responsibility of professionals, like us, is to be role models to the next generation. This is the opportunity and responsibility we have to continue to build the future of scientists, engineers and experts.

“I hope all of the children went home and shared their day with their families and loved ones and were able to shine in that moment because of the experience they had. But I also know we went home with those stories and memories too. It’s amazing to feel inspired and excited by this event and their ideas.”

The Science Inside Symposium incorporated Reckitt’s annual Sustainability Conference, reflecting the importance of science in developing sustainable solutions for a greener future.

The event was supported by The Sir James Reckitt Charity, which was founded by industrialist, Quaker and philanthropist Sir James more than 100 years ago.

The involvement of young people in the event underlined Reckitt’s commitment to inspiring and nurturing the next generation of scientists, especially in the city where the business was founded 184 years ago.

Since its humble beginnings as a starch mill in Hull in 1840, Reckitt has grown to become the globally trusted business it is today, and its brands, including Dettol, Gaviscon, Nurofen, Strepsils, Vanish and more, are household names.

Dr Bruce Charlesworth, Chief Medical Officer and Hull Campus Lead at Reckitt, said: “I love the students’ unfiltered enthusiasm. We often put too much realism and practicality into things, looking at what we can’t do. They have totally focused on the art of the possible.

“Days like this give them genuine presenting experience and I hope it inspires them because that’s what it’s all about. They will need these skills in the workplace in their future careers.” 

The event also showcased careers in science, technology and engineering, while nurturing students’ enthusiasm to potentially follow those paths.

Ideas from Ron Dearing UTC students ranged from rainwater harvesting benefits and plastic bottle recycling options, to reducing carbon emissions through heating modifications and electric transport.

Glenn Jensen, Senior Assistant Principal - Employer Engagement at Ron Dearing UTC, of which Reckitt is a Founding Partner, said: “This opportunity from Reckitt is so important because it helps our students to build resilience and confidence, while also allowing innovation to flow freely. 

“Every Ron Dearing student who chooses engineering as a subject studies sustainability and it’s in the hands of every individual to become more sustainable.

“The more engineers we can produce for industry who have this mindset, the better. We’re incredibly proud of our students’ ideas and efforts, and also grateful to everyone at Reckitt. It’s an excellent opportunity for them on a global scale.”

Hull and East Yorkshire Children’s University ignites dreams for children from underprivileged communities, offering them opportunities they otherwise may never have had, and Reckitt is a Platinum Partner of the charity.

The Rokeby Park Primary School pupils’ ideas ranged from creating “Lemsip on the go”, potentially reducing the need to dissolve Lemsip powdered sachets in hot water, to creating a limited edition scented Dettol product.

Mark Stockdale BEM, Learning Experience Lead at the Children’s University, said: “It can be difficult for children of this age to know what happens in industry and this is an amazing opportunity to ignite that flame and inspire them for the future.

“They could work at Reckitt one day and experiences like this can show them they can achieve whatever they want.”

Reckitt Festival of Science 3
Reckitt Festival of Science 4
Reckitt Festival of Science 5