Interview with Robin Fieldhouse, Head of Corporate Development at Goterra Pty Ltd
Posted 3 weeks ago
This month we spoke to Robin Fieldhouse, Head of Corporate Development at Goterra Pty Ltd. Goterra’s modular, autonomous waste management units use insects to consume food waste. Black soldier fly larvae convert food waste into high-value, low-impact protein and fertiliser in 12 days, providing an innovative and sustainable option for commercial waste management. Robin told us how his industrial biotech background and personal drive to focus on purpose-driven innovation led him to Goterra, the reason he actually enjoys a longer commute, and why running away from your problems is sometimes a good idea.
Tell us a little about your current role, and what you do.
It’s a stereotypical start-up job (and we’re 30+ people): I do a bit of everything! But I’m mostly responsible for creating business processes, partnerships, and documentation in support of capital raising, grants, and ongoing operations.
What’s your professional background?
After two degrees from Oxford, I was a wannabe ‘industrial boffin’, working out how to develop scalable, economic, and safe manufacturing processes for various chemicals (not quite Breaking Bad). I was co-inventor on a few patents from this time, including new processes for generic (off-patent) medicines. Later, I joined a start-up as Research and Development Director, where we innovated an industrial biotech process and novel product for feed supplementation.
I then spent over a decade in and around the university sector, helping those institutions capture their intellectual property and commercialise it through partnerships, licenses, and investment in start-ups. I also taught MBA students about the art of innovation.
Recently I joined Goterra, to focus more directly on purpose-driven innovation.
What time do you get up in the morning? Do you have a regular morning routine?
I’m up at 6 am. Teenagers and dogs at home, so there’s a routine of getting them (and myself) all abluted and commuted. I travel for about an hour each day, which I find better than my previous shorter commutes for getting my mind ready for the day ahead. It allows sufficient time for the caffeine supply to cool down and enter the bloodstream.
“I travel for about an hour each day, which I find better than my previous shorter commutes
for getting my mind ready for the day ahead.”
What is your approach when a creative project gets stuck or delayed? How do you get back on track?
Either talk it through, or run it out. For me, creativity and ideas come when standing up: either at the whiteboard or out for a run. Running is a great way to clarify thinking and solve problems.
What leadership traits or skills best enable innovation to flourish?
It requires more human-centered leadership than anything else. Innovation is about balancing risk and opportunity, and is far more reflective of an organisation’s culture rather than strategy (which gets eaten for breakfast). So, leadership that focusses on getting the best out of people (whether internal people, or customers), and is driven by a clear purpose works best to foster innovation.
“Innovation is about balancing risk and opportunity, and is far more reflective of an
organisation’s culture rather than strategy (which gets eaten for breakfast).”
What program or software would you be lost without at work?
Have you read any great books on innovation lately?
Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible, by Jia Jiang. It’s a great reminder to dance like no one’s watching.
Tell us about a project you were involved in that ‘failed’. What did you learn?
So many ‘failed’ projects! Without naming the guilty, I learned that horses can only be led to water, but their intent to drink is what matters.
What start-up, research or new technology are you excited about right now?
I’m interested in old tech applied to new niches, as well as deep tech. But I’m most interested in how technology is being applied in innovative ways to solve the world’s energy, food, climate, and population challenges.
What is your biggest challenge currently?
Lockdown and its consequences.
What behaviour or habit has most improved your life?
Stretching. Apart from being meditative, it helps me run, which has so many other benefits.
How do you stay up to date on industry trends and news?
So many newsletters…and a busy Twitter feed.
What three things do you hope to accomplish over the next twelve months?
Personal: Get fitter not fatter (lockdown..)
Personal: Inspire my teenagers to a purpose (wish me luck!)
Professional: help Goterra to scale nationally.
You can find Robin on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robin-fieldhouse-4046218/ or on Twitter at @robinfieldhouse