Kathryn Penaluna – University of Wales Trinity St David

The banker-turned-academic helping to produce Wales’ next generation of entrepreneurs.

As Enterprise Manager at University of Wales Trinity St David, Kathryn Penaluna is using her vast knowledge of entrepreneurship to help produce Wales’ next generation of innovators and high-achieving entrepreneurs – both by inspiring young people directly, and by playing a key role in validating entrepreneurship and putting it on the international map as an academic subject.

Kathryn was first inspired by innovation during the earlier part of a career when she worked as a bank manager. In charge of approving business loans, she had no choice but to turn applications down for original ideas that went on to achieve great success. Later, she found herself teaching business to young design students – and helped her husband out with his design business – and was overwhelmed by their ideas and creativity.

Kathryn says, "I was teaching using my business education and banking experience. But by listening to what these brilliant young students had to say, it dawned on me I’d completely missed out on understanding the massive contributions innovation and creativity make. Initially, I found it difficult to shift my mindset, and to accept I wasn’t the expert I thought I was."

She was appointed into her current role in 2005 and, invigorated by her experiences, studied for a MA Enterprise Education – adding this to the MBA she’d gained previously. Since then, the results and achievements speak for themselves. The university’s third-place ranking in the June 2017 Times Higher Education’s list of graduate start ups that have remained active and are still trading was a brilliant reflection on the work Kathryn has been doing in using new and emerging ideas to support start-ups. But ask about her most memorable experience and something else tops the list.

Kathryn explains, "We were appointed by the Macedonian government to develop its Innovation and Entrepreneurship teaching; a new and compulsory part of Macedonia’s national school curriculum. We entered a bid from the World Bank for the project and won it. It was an incredible experience from start to finish." Another achievement Kathryn enthuses about came in 2010 when her team set up the UK’s first university validated teacher training programme for Entrepreneurial Educators, helping to usher in a new era for the study of entrepreneurship in the UK and Europe, where it received wide acclaim from the European Commission.

Asked about Be The Spark, Kathryn is clearly keen to push further. "Be The Spark gives us the chance to focus on what matters, and to listen to the world and bring it back to Wales," she says. "Most thought leadership is evolving from the ground up, so new experts will emerge and this programme will act as a catalyst for that."