🚀 Internship

Zinc Innovation Internships 2023


Oct 12

🚀 Off-cycle


Rolling basis


In 2022, Zinc ran its first placements programme for PhD students keen to gain first-hand experience of mission-led, early-stage innovation. A cohort of 8 students from different disciplines and institutions joined us to apply their research skills and knowledge in work with founders, and to learn what it takes to build and run a commercial start-up with a big social mission.

That first programme was a huge success and we're now looking for ambitious PhD students to join us for a new programme, expected to start on 23rd January 2023.

Applicants must have a strong interest in one of Zinc’s four broad missions to:

  • Improve mental health: we have run two programmes on mental health, one with a focus on building new companies to improve women's mental health, and a second on improving the mental and emotional health of children and young people.
  • Tackle challenges relating to the future of work: we have run one venture-builder on this mission, focusing particularly on helping people and places 'left behind' by the effects of automation and globalisation.
  • Support healthy ageing: we have run one venture-builder programme on this so far, and are also the delivery partners for the UKRI Healthy Ageing Catalyst Awards.
  • Reduce environmental harms: this is the focus of our next venture-builder, starting in October 2022, which aims to transform the industries with the biggest impacts on the environment.

We expect placements to be full-time but will accommodate part-time working wherever possible if visa or other constraints limit a students’ ability to undertake full-time work.

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Area of Responsibilities

Business, Operations & Strategy


Innovation Internships are three-month placements with Zinc, available to anyone whose funding includes provision for a period in industry as part of their studentship. Our Innovation Internships allow students to spend time working closely with founders in one of several Zinc portfolio companies. These Internships offer PhD students a chance to get a different sort of industry experience, an exciting alternative to joining a big corporate organisation or public sector body.Innovation Internships are open to students interested in any one of our mission areas. Interns will either:(a) Join the Zinc team to support founders' exploration of in the second half of the venture-builder programme; or(b) Join an existing (portfolio) company to work on a specific research-based project there.To participate in option (a) you should have a strong interest in the mission focus of our next venture-builder, which will be on building new B2B (business-to-business) companies that help transform the industries with the biggest negative effects on the environment. In other words, you should be passionate about tackling some of the root causes of climate change by changing industry processes, practices and products.To participate in option (b) you should be passionate about one of our other mission areas in mental health, healthy ageing, or the future of work.
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Innovation Internships are open to any PhD student whose funding arrangements cover time spent on this placement. For the Innovation Internships, we can accept applications from students including from both SHAPE and STEMM disciplines. Passion for one of our missions is paramount and we are especially keen to hear from students whose research is in a field relevant to the mission they are interested in and/or who have relevant professional or voluntary experience in this area. We are also looking for students with a strong interest in learning more about how research can be used in evidence-based, mission-focused early-stage innovation.If you hope to join the Zinc team in the environment mission venture-builder, it would be advantageous (though not essential) if your research relates to one of the following four priority areas for that mission:- Farming, fishing and food- Transport- Construction and building operations- Manufacturing and supply chainsWhile we don't yet know what problems our new founders will seek to address, we expect them all to work in one of these four broad areas. You may also have professional or voluntary experience in a relevant field.If you are more interested in joining a portfolio company to work on a specific research-related project, you will need to demonstrate a strong interest in a relevant mission. All of our portfolio companies will be working in fields relevant to mental health, healthy ageing or the future of work. Again, it is an advantage if your research is relevant to one of these missions, but we are also very open to hearing from students with professional or voluntary experiences relevant to those missions too.Beyond this, we will look for evidence of the following skills and attributes:Ability to help design and deliver high-quality research: You'll have experience in designing and implementing research projects from scratch and feel comfortable with the idea of doing that in a new context (with support, of course!).Excellent communication skills: You’ll need to have outstanding written and oral communications skills and be comfortable initiating and holding conversations with people at different levels of seniority, and with people from different personal and professional backgrounds.Information synthesis and report-writing skills: You’ll need to be able to process and synthesise information from different disciplines and fields, and to report key findings clearly and succinctly.Flexibility and ability to respond positively to changing circumstances: You can plan and execute research in a fast-paced, agile environment, working to tight deadlines.Team player: Although much of your work will be self-directed, you’ll be part of Zinc’s growing Research & Development team and will join a cross-disciplinary cohort of Innovation Internships placed across Zinc and our portfolio ventures. An interest in and ability to work with people from different backgrounds is important to the role.Effective, positive and proactive: You are organised and hands-on, and able to use initiative to make decisions. A positive, “can-do” attitude is essential.
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Education requirements



Get a different sort of “industry” experience. This is a chance to gain commercial experience in a supportive, research-led environment where the primary focus is on addressing complex societal challenges.Develop knowledge and understanding of early-stage innovation and the role of research within that. At Zinc, we believe that the best way to learn is by doing. Being immersed in the work of an early-stage start-up will give you a deeper and richer understanding of research in innovation than any amount of theoretical training could confer.Design and deliver research and demonstrate project management. Successful applicants will have an opportunity to contribute to the design and implementation of desk-based secondary research. They may also be called upon to help design and participate in primary research, particularly user research.Gain experience in translating research and research-based expertise into clear information resources for use in commercial contexts. Develop your ability communicate research findings and research-related insights in a clear, concise and accessible way that is useful in the context of early-stage commercial innovation.Broaden your network in a multi-disciplinary, cross-sectoral environment. Zinc team members, venture founders and our wide network of expert Visiting Fellows come from diverse disciplinary and sectoral backgrounds. You'll have a chance to engage with people across our network and, in doing so, to build your own network.Benefit from the support of our in-house Research & Development team. You’ll have access to Zinc’s in-house R&D team, all of whom have come from research backgrounds like yours and can provide help and advice.Make a meaningful contribution to the development of new products and services in areas you care about. We want you to do something that feels important to you while you're with us. By joining a company that works in an area you care about, you'll have a chance to input to the development of products and services that you believe will deliver positive impacts in an important mission area.
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