Zinc PhD Student Innovation Internships 2023


London, England, United Kingdom



Jan 3

We are excited to be recruiting for our next round of innovation internships, where an interdisciplinary cohort of PhD students will join a 3-month internship to get first-hand experience of mission-led, early-stage innovation. Building on our successful 2022 innovation internships programme, we will be bringing together a new group of PhD students who will apply their research skills and knowledge in work with founders, and to learn what it takes to build and run a commercial start-up with a big social mission.

Applicants must have a strong interest in one of Zinc’s four broad missions to:

  • Improve mental health
  • Tackle challenges relating to the future of work and improving financial resilience
  • Support healthy ageing
  • Reduce environmental harms

We expect placements to be full-time but will accommodate part-time working wherever possible if visa or other constraints limit students’ ability to undertake full-time work.

Please note: We are only able to host interns whose funding arrangements will cover the costs of their involvement in this placement (e.g. Research Council placements funding), as we are not currently in a position to fund students' placements ourselves. Self-funded students may also apply, as long extending their studentship by participating in this sort of placement will not negatively affect them.

The next cohort is expected to start in March, 2023. Candidates should indicate in their application when they would prefer to start a placement with us, and we will take that into account where possible.

What is Zinc?

Zinc builds research-rich, mission-focused start-ups that respond to big societal challenges. Our start-ups create new products and services intended to improve mental health, support healthy ageing, improve financial resilience, and reduce environmental harms.

Start-ups are created through our venture-builder programme, which brings together ~70 people from diverse communities and professional backgrounds in a full-time programme of content, support and development here in London. Founders receive six months of intensive support and have a chance both to meet an extraordinary co-founder within their cohort, and to receive an initial £75k investment in their new venture once they incorporate.

At the end of the six-month venture-builder programme, Zinc invests in ~15 new companies created during that programme, who stay with us for ‘Accelerate’ - a further six months of personal and business development support with a focus on understanding user needs, developing their product and defining their value proposition.

As well as supporting founders within any given venture-builder and Accelerate cohort, we provide ongoing support to our portfolio of existing companies, created during previous Zinc venture-builders.

Research is central to our work. Our growing in-house Research & Development (R&D) team helps founders to connect with researchers and use existing research, as well as to design and implement high-quality research of their own. Away from the venture-builder, we promote work at the intersections of research and innovation through things like our delivery of the UKRI Healthy Ageing Catalyst Awards, by running independent research and development programmes, and by creating new opportunities (including these Internships!) for researchers to explore the world of early-stage innovation.

What are Innovation Internships?

Innovation Internships are three-month placements with Zinc, available to anyone whose funding includes provision for a period in industry as part of their studentship. Our Innovation Internships allow students to spend time working closely with founders in one of several Zinc portfolio companies. These Internships offer PhD students a chance to get a different sort of industry experience, an exciting alternative to joining a big corporate organisation or public sector body.

Innovation Internships are open to students interested in any one of our mission areas. Students will be matched with 1-2 ventures with whom they will apply and advance their skills, as well as having support and guidance from Zinc.


Innovation Internships are open to any PhD student whose funding arrangements cover time spent on this placement. For the Innovation Internships, we can accept applications from students including from both SHAPE and STEMM disciplines. Passion for one of our missions is paramount and we are especially keen to hear from students whose research is in a field relevant to the mission they are interested in and/or who have relevant professional or voluntary experience in this area. We are also looking for students with a strong interest in learning more about how research can be used in evidence-based, mission-focused early-stage innovation.

Beyond this, we will look for evidence of the following skills and attributes:

  • Ability to help design and deliver high-quality research: You'll have experience in designing and implementing research projects from scratch and feel comfortable with the idea of doing that in a new context (with support, of course!).
  • Excellent communication skills: You’ll need to have outstanding written and oral communications skills and be comfortable initiating and holding conversations with people at different levels of seniority, and with people from different personal and professional backgrounds.
  • Information synthesis and report-writing skills: You’ll need to be able to process and synthesise information from different disciplines and fields, and to report key findings clearly and succinctly.
  • Flexibility and ability to respond positively to changing circumstances: You can plan and execute research in a fast-paced, agile environment, working to tight deadlines.
  • Team player: Although much of your work will be self-directed, you’ll be part of Zinc’s growing Research & Development team and will join a cross-disciplinary cohort of Innovation Internships placed across Zinc and our portfolio ventures. An interest in and ability to work with people from different backgrounds is important to the role.
  • Effective, positive and proactive: You are organised and hands-on, and able to use initiative to make decisions. A positive, “can-do” attitude is essential.


This is an exciting opportunity for PhD students to:

  • Get a different sort of “industry” experience. This is a chance to gain commercial experience in a supportive, research-led environment where the primary focus is on addressing complex societal challenges.
  • Develop knowledge and understanding of early-stage innovation and the role of research within that. At Zinc, we believe that the best way to learn is by doing. Being immersed in the work of an early-stage start-up will give you a deeper and richer understanding of research in innovation than any amount of theoretical training could confer.
  • Design and deliver research and demonstrate project management. Successful applicants will have an opportunity to contribute to the design and implementation of desk-based secondary research. They may also be called upon to help design and participate in primary research, particularly user research.
  • Gain experience in translating research and research-based expertise into clear information resources for use in commercial contexts. Develop your ability communicate research findings and research-related insights in a clear, concise and accessible way that is useful in the context of early-stage commercial innovation.
  • Broaden your network in a multi-disciplinary, cross-sectoral environment. Zinc team members, venture founders and our wide network of expert Visiting Fellows come from diverse disciplinary and sectoral backgrounds. You'll have a chance to engage with people across our network and, in doing so, to build your own network.
  • Benefit from the support of our in-house Research & Development team. You’ll have access to Zinc’s in-house R&D team, all of whom have come from research backgrounds like yours and can provide help and advice.
  • Make a meaningful contribution to the development of new products and services in areas you care about. We want you to do something that feels important to you while you're with us. By joining a company that works in an area you care about, you'll have a chance to input to the development of products and services that you believe will deliver positive impacts in an important mission area.

Additional information

Modes of work: We encourage in-person work where possible, but there is plenty of scope for a hybrid work model, including remote work where that is preferable. We will ask all Interns to join us at our central London offices on at least three occasions during their placements to participate in cohort-level learning and development opportunities. However, outside of these activities, we'll do our best to accommodate a working pattern that works for you.

Diversity and Inclusion: Diversity is important to us, and our founders come from much more diverse personal and professional backgrounds than is typical in this sort of programme.We are similarly committed to supporting individuals from diverse backgrounds to participate in our Innovation Internships and encourage applicants from any and all backgrounds to apply for this opportunity.

Supervisory Approval: Please do talk about this opportunity with your PhD supervisor(s) and/or DTP team before applying. You will be required to provide a supporting letter confirming your supervisor's support for your participation in the Zinc Innovation Internship Programme before we can accept you onto this programme.

Please note: This is an unpaid internship. We are only able to host interns whose funding arrangements will cover the costs of their involvement in this placement (e.g. Research Council placements funding). It is applicants’ own responsibility to check that their registration and visa status are compatible with the requirement of this internship before they apply. Self-funded students will also be considered.

When you apply, you will be asked to submit a CV and a 2-page (800 word) cover letter. You should use your cover letter to tell us why you're keen to join us as an Innovation Intern, what you think you'd bring to Zinc and what you hope to get from this experience. Please include an overview of your disciplinary field and area(s) of research expertise and make sure you tell us which of Zinc's four missions you're interested in and why you're passionate about that mission.

Once we have received your application, you will be sent the link to record a 2-minute long video on the Workable platform. You must submit both the written application and the video recording to complete your application.

Places will be awarded on a rolling basis; we encourage early applications to avoid disappointment. For informal queries or additional information please email research@zinc.vc

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