Working for a scientific SME: advice from professionals

“Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) make up a large proportion of the UK’s economy and account for approximately 30% of graduate employment” (AGCAS, 2022),

Finding and applying for work experience, including internships, or graduate roles, in SMEs can be different to schemes with larger employers. In April 2024, the Careers Service invited three professionals, who work in scientific SMEs, to share their advice:

Scientist carrying out an experiment in the lab
  • Dr Mark Benizett, VetIMD – Pioneering isothermal molecular diagnostics solutions for the animal health sector
  • Dr Clio Andreae, GenomeKey – Biotechnology using cutting edge machine learning and DNA sequencing to treat Sepsis
  • Dr Ed Jones, Kelpi – World-leading sustainable materials innovation business – harnessing the properties of seaweed to create compostable, marine-safe, low-carbon bioplastic packaging
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My SME Internship: Christa – Extracellular 

Hi, my name is Christa and towards the end of my third year studying for MSci Biology I took part in an SME Internship with Extracellular.

Throughout the internship, I undertook a variety of roles in and out of the laboratory working to support my colleagues and complete my own projects independently.

A photo of Christa smiling in the sunshine.

About Extracellular

Extracellular's logo.

Extracellular is a start-up company focusing on supporting cultivated meat companies to get their products to market. Cultivated meat is produced by cultivating animal cells, removing the need to raise and farm animals for food

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My SME Internship: Cecilia – Bristol City of Sanctuary 

A photo of Cecilia smiling. She is smartly dressed and looks like she is at a conference.

Hi, I’m Cecilia. Having completed my internship at Bristol City of Sanctuary during my International Development MSc, I am filled with gratitude for the invaluable experiences and personal growth it has brought me. Working as a campaigns and communications intern in such a vibrant organisation has been an incredible opportunity, and I am excited to share some insights and highlights. 

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My SME Internship: Chaeyeon – Learning with Parents

Hi, I’m Chaeyeon. During my second year studying BSc Psychology, I completed an SME Internship as a Content Intern at Learning with Parents. They are an education charity, empowering families, schools, and communities to have enjoyable home-learning facilitated by parental engagement.  

A photo of Chaeyeon smiling at the camera.

Parental engagement, involving parents to support child-led learning activities, can be promoted to families of different shapes, sizes, and socioeconomic backgrounds to tackle educational inequality that is largely driven by early provision.

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My SME Internship: Emma – Neurometry

Hi, I’m Emma, a Neuroscience BSc graduate. In 2023, I spent six months working as a research analyst with Neurometry.

I started as an intern on the SME Internship Scheme from January to April and then Neurometry extended my contract.

Neurometry is a start-up that is developing cognitive training tools for older adults. The company is based in London but mostly works remotely.

A photo of Emma, smiling to the camera.
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My SME Internship: Andrea – Famli

My name is Andrea. During my master’s degree in Psychology of Education, I did an SME Internship with Famli.

A photo of Andrea smiling to the camera.

Famli is an app that supports well-being, offering fun challenges to promote physical, nutritional, and mental health in schools and families.   

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My SME Internship: Audrey – Pointer Consultancy Group

Hello! My name is Audrey and in my first year studying Economics and Maths, I completed an internship at Pointer Consultancy Group.

Pointer is a small but growing consulting company based in Bristol. It focuses mainly on project, bid, and change management but has begun offering sustainability consulting to help companies achieve their environmental, social and governance goals.

I worked at Pointer part-time during term time from February until June, completing 10-12 hours per week, mostly virtually from home but also coming into the office for a few hours each week.  

A photo of Audrey, smiling.

My role

I was given the task of creating a tool in Excel to help guide clients through the Business Impact Assessment, which is the first step towards becoming a certified Benefit Corporation (B Corp). I worked mostly with one person, Ben, during the internship but frequently would present what I had done to other employees and directors at Pointer. 

Challenges and skills I gained

Time management: The greatest challenge of this internship was learning to manage my time effectively, especially since I was working during term time. Pointer was very supportive and flexible, being happy to let me do more or less each week depending on the intensity of assignments I had due, as well as letting me take a few weeks’ break to complete my exams.

Analytical skills: Another challenge I had was learning to analyse a problem I was facing in the development of the tool and decide which questions were the most important to ask. Everybody at Pointer was always happy to help guide me but were often very busy, so it was important for me to ask precise questions and learn to take initiative.  

This experience taught me to be more organised, solve problems efficiently and communicate well with my colleagues. Not to mention my skills in Microsoft Excel, which I greatly improved.  

Real-world experience: I also learned a lot about consulting and how a small company operates. I had the chance to attend the Bristol Sustainable Business Festival which showed me the importance of networking and making personal connections to create opportunities for work and growth.  

I had a great time during my internship. I loved working with everyone at Pointer and learned so much about the company, industry, and myself. This experience made me more certain of my desire to enter the field of sustainability.  

Advice

I would advise anyone looking to take on an intern role with an SME to take the time to first read the job description in detail and the SME Internship Scheme Guide and to tailor your cover letter and your CV to include relevant information for the job.

Take the time to read around the company and industry so you can enter an interview with confidence, already have some knowledge of the job, and can ask interesting questions.

During an internship, always communicate with the company any worries you might have about the workload or responsibilities while you are working there, and they will be happy to listen and help. 

I wish you all the best in applying for internships and hope you have a great time! 


Want to be an SME Intern? 

The SME Internship Scheme is open and we are advertising internships that you can apply for, or you can arrange your own internship, find out more here

SME Internship Scheme logo

Check out our “My SME Internship” blog series to hear more student stories. 

So you’ve found an opportunity you’d like to apply for: 

Securing paid internships can feel challenging, but there is plenty of support to help you make the most of the SME Internship Scheme. 

Here are some resources to support your application: 

If you have any questions about the scheme, writing your application, or anything else relating to careers you can speak to us on live chat, or pop into 5 Tyndall Avenue from Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4.30 pm during term time. 

My SME Internship: Noa – Under the Wing Productions

My name is Noa. During my third year studying Classical Studies I got the opportunity to do a 10-week internship at Under the Wing Productions (UTW) through the University’s SME Internship Scheme. 

A picture of Noa smiling

UTW is a Bristol-based video production company that focuses on developing aspiring filmmakers.

I have always had a keen interest in filmmaking and the media industry, so when I came across the advert for this role, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity for me to gain valuable skills and experiences, whilst also building up my CV for when I leave University. 

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My SME Internship: Anika – Safer Industries

“Hi, I’m Anika. For my SME Internship, I was working for a start-up called Safer Industries Ltd.

A photo of Anika smiling.

I worked closely with the founder, Tim, to begin fleshing out the brands of his company and organise some elemental ideas around environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policy.

Apart from occasional meetings in local Bristol cafés, my work was remote and flexible.

By the end of my internship, which spanned two months part-time during term-time, we had collaboratively created logos for one brand and created a Venn diagram covering some starting points for what would later be developed into a comprehensive and novel ESG policy. 

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My SME Internship: Tom – Ipsa Consulting

Hi, my name is Tom and I graduated with a BSc in Geography in July 2022. 

After graduating, I sourced an internship opportunity myself, and I completed an SME Internship in November and December 2022.

My company of choice was Ipsa Consulting, a Devon-based consultancy supporting the sustainable growth of purpose-led organisations. 

My role

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