First Reckitt Festival of Science inspires next generation

World-leading health, hygiene and nutrition business Reckitt has welcomed dozens of young people to its first ever Festival of Science, to inspire a future generation of scientists.

Pupils from Mersey Primary Academy completed hands-on science workshops as part of the Festival of Science. They met Dr Bruce Charlesworth, Chief Medical Officer and Campus Lead at Reckitt, Dr Angela Naef, Chief R&D Officer at Reckitt, both pictured front, and other members of the company’s Global Research and Development (R&D) Team.

Young people from Hull’s Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC) and Mersey Primary Academy took part in challenges and workshops at Reckitt’s £105m Science and Innovation Centre at its Hull Campus.

The festival was backed by a significant donation from The Sir James Reckitt Charity, which was founded over 100 years ago by industrialist, Quaker and philanthropist Sir James using shares in Reckitt & Sons Ltd.

The event aimed to showcase careers in science, technology and engineering and nurture young people’s enthusiasm, inspiring them to become the scientists and industry leaders of the future.

Speaking to 30 Year 5 pupils from Mersey Primary Academy, Dr Angela Naef, Chief R&D Officer at Reckitt, said she was inspired to become a scientist as a youngster when her parents bought her a microscope for Christmas.

She said: “I’m so grateful I’ve been able to make science a job. My curiosity and interest started when I was your age. Believe in what you find interesting today. You can take it into the future and do whatever you want to with it. It’s in your hands.

“Take all these amazing experiences and keep asking questions. That’s how you’ll find where your passion will be for your future.”

Reckitt is a Founding Partner of Ron Dearing UTC and students were set a “Healthier Planet” challenge based on sustainability, with topics including climate change and biodiversity.

Three teams of three Year 12 students created a proposal for how a Reckitt product, brand or supply process could be developed to help the company meet its commitments in creating a healthier planet. They presented their ideas to Reckitt’s Global Research and Development (R&D) Leadership Team, led by Dr Naef.

The winning team, comprising of Scarlet Wedgner, 17, Tohru Laybourne, 16, and Imogen Connolly, 17, focused on how Reckitt could potentially enhance its renewable energy approach using wind turbines and solar panels. They were presented with the first ever Sir James Reckitt Future Scientist Award.

The Ron Dearing UTC students were awarded a £3,000 donation from The Sir James Reckitt Charity to further support the school’s employability activities and will be given the chance to continue working with Reckitt to develop their ideas.

Mersey Primary Academy, the school closest to Reckitt’s Hull Campus, is part of Garden Village which was built by Sir James Reckitt and opened in 1908.

In partnership with Hull and East Yorkshire Children’s University, the pupils took part in hands-on science workshops and met Reckitt scientists. They were also challenged to develop a new product or change an element of an existing Reckitt product.

The winning duo, Violet Birjoo and Amelia Dockerty, both 10, chosen by the Reckitt senior global leaders and product experts, designed a “magic medicine lolly” to encourage children who don’t like taking medicine to do so. The school will also benefit from £3,000 from The Sir James Reckitt Charity to create a science club and support other activities.

Dr Bruce Charlesworth, Chief Medical Officer and Hull Campus Lead at Reckitt, said: “The importance of the Festival of Science is two-fold. It’s linked to the Reckitt legacy, heritage and Quaker ethos of giving back to the community.

“It also helps prepare young people for the world of employment and gives them opportunities they may not otherwise have.

“We owe it to Sir James to continue his legacy and we appreciate the considerable donation from the charity that carries his name, which has supported this Festival of Science.

“The students wowed our Global R&D Leadership Team with their sustainability knowledge and their ideas for our products and packaging, as well as how to make the energy we use greener. They showed real depth of knowledge and I’m proud of them all.

“For the UTC students, I don’t think there are many young people of that age who can say they presented to senior executives from one of the world’s largest companies.”

The Sir James Reckitt Charity supports organisations and individuals in many ways and has donated more than £30m since its inception more than 100 years ago. The charity held its centenary celebrations at the Hull Campus in 2022, a year late due to the pandemic.

Becky Holt, Trustee of the Sir James Reckitt Charity and great great granddaughter of Sir James, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support this event and proud to be able to continue Sir James’ legacy, connecting with our communities as a family.

“We have a foot in the past with our history and ancestry, but we’re very much focused on the future and helping to inspire and support young people. It’s very exciting.”

Reckitt has grown from a humble starch mill founded in Hull in 1840 to become the trusted, global business it is today. Its brands, including Dettol, Gaviscon, Nurofen, Strepsils, Vanish and more, are household names.

The Festival of Science was part of the inaugural Science Inside Symposium, a two-day broader programme of activities which recognised scientific talent across Reckitt and showcased the company’s brands and products. The symposium brought Reckitt’s work to life and is set to become an annual event.

Over 160 delegates attended the event at the Hull Campus, the largest of nine global Reckitt R&D Centres of Excellence, while more international colleagues joined online.

Glenn Jensen, Senior Assistant Principal – Employer Engagement at Ron Dearing UTC, said: “It’s fantastic to see our students playing their part in such an important global event, thanks to Reckitt, one of our Founding Partners.

“Sustainability is such a key part of our curriculum. It’s brilliant to see our students using their knowledge and applying it on the road to net zero.”

Hull and East Yorkshire Children’s University (HEYCU) ignites dreams for children from underprivileged communities and Reckitt has become a Platinum Partner of the charity, funded through the donation from The Sir James Reckitt Charity, related to the Festival of Science.

Rose James, the charity’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Coming to Reckitt is an incredible opportunity for these children. As soon as they walked onto the site they were blown away by the size of it and asked lots of questions.

“They may never have thought about a career in science and experiences like this can change their whole future. It’s about igniting dreams and putting fire in their bellies.”