Maggie Philbin has worked in radio and television for over 30 years on a wide range of science, medical and technology programmes. She 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” . She is a popular and entertaining speaker at conferences, bringing a unique and insightful perspective on technology.
Currently reporting on Science and technology for BBC’s ‘Bang Goes The Theory‘, providing analysis and comment on technology for BBC Webwise and a regular reporter on BBC 1’s Inside Out, she 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.” In 2007 she and the BBC Radio Berkshire news team beat the Today Programme winning Silver at the Sony Awards for the quality of their news coverage. In 2010, the Breakfast show has again been nominated for a Sony.
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 event now runs in twelve locations across the UK 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 2012, (WISE/UKRC) and in 2013 were given an Award by the Institute of Engineering Design for their work with young people. HRH Duke of York KG is now patron of TeenTech. The winners of the TeenTech Awards were invited to Buckingham Palace to clebrate their success.
Recently she 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 sits on the panel of the New Engineering Foundation, which supports the development of Vocational Education and helps lecturers in FE get cutting edge career development in industry. She is also 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 the National Osteoporosis Society and VASL (Voluntary Action South Leicestershire)
Maggie is a popular keynote speaker for businesswomen. “We need more female entrepreneurs and 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