Maggie Philbin has worked in radio and television for over 30 years on a wide range of science, medical and technology programmes. She is President of the Institute of Engineering Designers and is co-founder and CEO of TeenTech CIC, an award winning organisation helping young people, their parents and teachers understand more about the real opportunities in Science and Technology.
In 2012 she was awarded an honorary doctorate in Technology from De Montfort University recognising her “outstanding contributions to the intellectual and cultural life of the nation and region” and for “bringing about a greater understand of and interest in science and technology” . In 2014 she was made a fellow of Queen Mary University, London, in 2015 awarded a doctorate of Science from the University of Bath and in 2016 presented with an honorary doctorate by the University of Huddersfield.
She is a popular and entertaining speaker at conferences, bringing a unique and insightful perspective on technology, diversity and innovation.
She was a reporter on the recent BBC 1 series Bang Goes The Theory‘, has provided analysis and comment on technology for BBC Webwise and has a unique resonance with audiences, having grown up with them on much loved shows like Swap Shop and Tomorrow’s World. Many of the everyday gadgets we now take for granted were demonstrated on live television for the very first time by Maggie – the first truly mobile phone, the first car navigation system, the first fax machine, even the first supermarket barcode reader.
Additionally, Maggie’s extensive radio and television career has also included working with ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. She has covered stories all over the world, from earthquake prediction systems in Iceland, to wave power technology in Norway, to possibly the most dangerous system for rescuing people from ski cable cars in Switzerland! In September 2008 she worked on a project with the BBC, NHK (Japan) and RAI (Italy) to give the first live international demonstration of Super Hi-Vision, the broadcasting system that will be used in ten years time!
Her reporting career on live programmes from Hospital Watch to This Morning, on network television and on local radio has taken her into every imaginable and unimaginable situation. “The most memorable moments have come from people I’ve met, who have been generous to trust me with their stories and experiences. I never take this job for granted.”
She is keen to help improve the visibility of successful scientists and engineers, both to encourage young people and women to pursue careers and reach top positions in these areas. “In Britain we have a history of viewing scientists as remote loners, who pursue their unfathomable work in dusty laboratories. In an era where many children aspire simply to “be famous” and where winning X Factor is seen as the ultimate goal, it’s vital for the science and engineering community to raise their profile and use powerful role models to help young people understand the reality of these professions. It’s heartbreaking to think of the amount of talent and innovation going to waste, simply because children and their families haven’t the faintest idea what an engineer or technician actually does.”
In November 2008, she pioneered TeenTech, collaborating with business, education and professional organisations to create a lively interactive one day event which brought 400 young teenagers, scientists and technology companies together. “The kids had their stereotypical image of engineers completely reversed and the companies were staggered by the enthusiasm and innate talent of the teenagers.” The BBC1 Politics Show devoted half their programme to the event.
The initiative now runs in twelve locations across the UK and Ireland and has a supporting Awards scheme. In April 2010 TeenTech won Best Engineering Event in Science Week , in 2011 was the only UK organisation to receive a Google RISE Award , in 2012 received Best Communication and Outreach (WISE/UKRC) and in 2013 were given an Award by the Institute of Engineering Design for their work promoting design to young people. HRH Duke of York KG is now patron of TeenTech. The winners of the TeenTech Awards are invited to Buckingham Palace every year to celebrate their success.
Maggie delivered a “Mini- Reith” Lecture on this subject on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House saying “We talk endlessly about innovation but we have to do more to inspire teenagers with fresh accurate images of the contemporary workplace. The vast majority of jobs, even in the near future will be applications of science, technology, engineering and maths . But at the moment a generation sit in chains, shackled to the false hope of instant success, and a magical belief that X factor, the lottery or marrying a footballer will transform their lives”
Maggie is patron of the Daphne Jackson Trust which helps scientists, engineers and technologists return to their careers. “Getting the right support and training is key, whether you’re 16 or 60. It makes an enormous difference not only to the personal development and confidence of individuals but to the success and reputation of companies and institutions.”
She is a patron of VASL (Voluntary Action South Leicestershire)
Maggie is a popular keynote speaker for businesswomen. “We need more female entrepreneurs, more women at all levels of organisations as well as more women on the boards of companies. I’m not just banging the feminist drum, it makes very sound economic sense. Companies waste a lot of talent by neglecting mentoring.” Maggie provides practical advice on how businesses can harness modern technology not only to improve their profits but to develop their trust and credibility.
Maggie has one daughter, Rose, named after the woman who gambled on a young student being able to handle the BBC’s first Saturday morning show