Enterprise & Innovation
Design Scientist, Systems Theorist, futurologist | Jan 2009 – Present
Design scientist, systems theorist, and futurologist delivering board-level advisories to corporate, government, and NGO clients across the built environment, utilities, manufacturing, engineering, design, publishing, media, and communications sectors. Having first interrogated the potentialities of biomaterials and anticipated the concept that would become cradle-to-cradle design in the early 90s while still an undergraduate, Melissa has researched and developed original biodesign, biomimetic, and biotechnology concepts across fields including textiles, fashion, architecture, urban planning, and infrastructure. A serial entrepreneur who has founded, co-founded, and mentored several first-to-market start-ups, hers is hands-on experience at the coalface of innovation; researching, developing, and commercialising market-creating concepts.
Her specialist fields are planetary and biofutures; bioscience; bioengineering, and biourbansim; ecological and biocentric design, and urban and peri-urban resilience; natural hazards and risk mitigation; complexity and systems theory; sustainable innovation and enterprise; and corporate social responsibility and business ethics.
Past activities include coauthor of a report on the threat of nano/micro pollutants and possible current and future means of mitigation; expert advisor on world futures social and environmental; expert advisor and media figurehead to a white paper of the future of technology and the technology recruitment market; contributor to a white paper on the future of events and public gatherings; expert advisor & workshop collaborator on future cities & urban design; expert advisor & workshop collaborator developing goods for the future home; participating as consultant & speaker in a workshop exploring the future home and home living, Singularity University, California; participating in a workshop developing future communications technology services and products; participating as consultant & speaker in the 'Inventing the Future' think tank, held at the Royal Society, and contributing to its subsequent white paper, which discussed what technical & scientific careers will look like in the future, and what STEM-focused skills will be needed to satisfy these new occupations; and participating as a fellow of the British Council co-created UnBox Labs 'Future Cities' laboratory at the National Institute of Design, India. Further past clients include Toyota Motor Corporation, Unilever, Virgin group, Vodafone group, Hershey's, Grosvenor, CW Jobs, SUEZ group, Studio IntO, among many others.
Founding Director, Bioratorium Limited | Jan 2019 - Present
Biofuturism consultancy Bioratorium® and its lab Labioratorium® serve to interrogate the possible future potentialities of bio-informed, bio-inspired, and bio-enabled science, technology, engineering, and design both within and beyond the built environment. Helping clients to identify possible opportunities and risks, including new products, markets, and business models, Bioratorium® offers services including scenario planning, horizon scanning and trend identification, analysis, and extrapolation; speculative design and design fictions; workshops and lectures; strategic advisories, and project mentoring. Site launching at Bioratorium.com soon.
Founding Director, Panarchic Codex | Jan 2018 - Present
The product of an extensive systemic transdisciplinary interrogation of the interplay between human and non-human systems over deep time and space, Panarchic Codex® seeks to provide a critical, yet creative perspective on the 'problem' of living with wildfire, while also serving to inform wider exploration of bespoke biomimetic, bioengineered, and biotechnological architectural, urban, and landscape natural hazard interventions. Drawing on leading-edge research from several scientific, technological, humanistic, and artistic domains, both academic and commercial, Panarchic Codex® triangulates data spanning myriad forms, disciplines, epochs, and R&D communities. See www.panarchiccodex.com.
Founding Director, Bionic City | Jan 2010 - Present
Bionic City® seeks to answer the question “how would nature design a city?” and examines the potential of biomimetics, biotechnology and biology in the built environment in the now, near and far future. Bionic City® creates its own original research, concepts and creative works, while also serving as an platform for collaborating and co-creating with leading interdisciplinary scientists, designers, architects, technologists, and artists worldwide. More information can be found at www.bioniccity.co.uk.
Founding Director, New Frontiers | Oct 2008 - Dec 2010
New Frontiers was an award-winning interdisciplinary collaborative innovation programme that provided opportunities and stimulus for new sustainable design, running a number of seminars on the subject and facilitating online conversations through social media. Its 20 knowledge-sharing partners included Royal Society of Chemistry, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Centre for Construction Innovation, Chemicals Northwest and the universities of Manchester, Loughborough and Salford. The initiative was guided by a 30-strong panel of leaders in sustainable science, technology and design for the built environment.
Founding Director, Societás | Jun 2004 – Nov 2010
Founded in 2004 as a creative catalyst, London-based Societás comprised a multi award-winning sustainability innovation think tank, collaborative laboratory and strategic consultancy, which brought together world-class international creative and intellectual talent to co-create groundbreaking projects in and across design, media and the visual arts.
Co-Founding Director, Creative Graduate Prize | Jun 2004 - Dec 2010
The world's first online visual arts awards, Creative Graduate Prize kick-started the careers of talented emerging visual artists worldwide, bringing their work to the attention of international leaders in the creative industries. Categories spanned photography, painting, illustration, installation, short film and digital media. Supported by pioneering visual arts magazines, institutes, networks and galleries globally, the prize attracted entries and media coverage from several continents. Winners spread as far and wide as USA, China, UK and Europe.
Co-Founding Director, Iconique Societás Awards | Jan 2007 - Jul 2010
The world's first online fashion arts awards, co-founded by Melissa and Dutch creative director Joost van Gorsel, Iconique Societás Awards brought the global spotlight to the very best emerging international talent in fashion photography, illustration, and styling. A joint venture between top-10 fashion zine Iconique and Societás, the awards attracted entries from several continents and coverage in China, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, USA, Canada and Europe.
Marketing & Media Director, RClub | Mar 2003 - May 2004
RClub was the world's first online private members club. Projects and activities directed by Melissa included the launch a club members' magazine, of which she was co-editor, and the creation of media partnerships, promotions, sponsorships, affiliations and events with leading luxury brands and media and entertainment groups, including Jazz FM. She was creative director and senior event producer of several high profile events, including fashion shows integrating state-of-the-art audio-visual VJ and DJ sets and/or live performances for world-renown designers including tailor Mark Powell, milliner Louis Mariette, and lingerie brand Coco de Mer. Melissa was also one of the three principle directors of the world's longest-ever party. Lasting 29 days and comprising events for up to 1,200 club members a time, celebrities, royalty, and press, the event-series took place in leading luxury venues across the UK and Europe, with all profits donated to UK charities.
Client Relations Director, LondonLaunch | Oct 2001 – Mar 2003
Having joined first-to-market online event network LondonLaunch when it was just a few months old to act as a consultant on its start-up operations, Melissa became Client Relations Director after 3 months. She created and implemented the strategy to diversify the company’s services into publishing, sponsorship and event production, brokered several media partnerships and organised a number of prestigious high profile networking events for industry leaders, including one dubbed the 'networking party of the year' by Events Specialist magazine, of which attendees included executives from FTSE 100 companies, and press and media including the BBC. Further responsibilities included editing the company's event industry handbook and its quarterly magazine, directing marketing and communications activity including designing trade show stands and promotional materials, and anchoring sponsorship and collaborations with leading national and international event suppliers and venues.
Head of Business Development, Think Pod | Mar 2001 – Oct 2001
Think Pod was a cutting edge London design studio specialising in design for print, new media and packaging, which was in operation between 2001 and 2003. Melissa joined the young company to implement its start-up strategy. Her role involved organising the company launch party and press, writing/editing all company marketing/sales materials, client liaison and online marketing.
Executive Director, Non-Executive Director, Board Level Advisor | Nov 2004 – Present
Executive Director, Non-Executive Director and Board Level Advisor to a handful of pioneering startups working in sectors including sustainability, social enterprise, digital, communications, media, events, the visual arts, and gender equality and empowerment. Activities inc. product and services research and development; writing and revising business plans; on-going strategic C-Level guidance and leadership; internal and external communications advisory spanning intellectual property, branding, corporate identity, press, marketing, and digital strategy; founder mentoring; corporate governance, due diligence, and business ethics; setting-up industry collaborations, partnerships, and strategic alliances and affiliations, sponsorship and funding strategy; brand ambassador and senior press and media liaison.
Not for Profit
Contributor to the Postcards from Tomorrow fundraising book, 2019 - 2020; Committee Member, Take Heart India, Annual Fundraising Ball, The Roof Gardens, London, 2005 – 2012; Non-Executive Director, Anti Apathy 2009 – 2010; Steering Group Member, WWF 'Awakenings' think tank, 2007 – 2009; Head of PR, Sponsorship, Brand Affiliations & Fashion Show Production, ICAP/Laureus Sport for Good Foundation Annual Fundraising Dinner & Temperley London show, Puck Building, New York, 2007; Head of Sponsorship, PR & Artist Liaison, The Big Issue’s 15th Anniversary Concert, Shepherd's Bush Pavilion, London 2006; Head of Sponsorship, Zandra Rhodes 'My Favourite Dress Ball', Hurlingham Club, London 2005; Head of Sponsorship & After Show Party Production, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Rock Concert, Royal Opera House, London 2002.
Freelance Digital and Marketing Consultant | 1999 – 2001
Advisor to first-to-market digital start-ups, including online style and arts magazines and e-tailers. She also worked as an executive headhunter on behalf of leading international digital agencies and dotcoms, specialising in senior and board level creatives for the digital and mobile sector, and undertook freelance research contracts working with the marketing and information technology departments of national and multi-national PLCs in sectors including telecommunications, finance and retail.
Fashion Designer & Fashion Buyer | 1996 – 1999
On graduation launched her own womenswear label, designing bi-annual collections, pattern cutting, managing sample collection production, organising fashion shows, liaising with press and media, designing and distributing all marketing and merchandising materials, as well as designing and managing production of fashion ranges for third party suppliers. Showed collections at Alternative Fashion Week in Spitalfields Market and at the Islington Design Centre, London. Spent 18 months working on the women’s sportswear buying team for a major high street retailer, working with brands including Calvin Klein, Farah, Kangol, Quicksilver, Levis and Wrangler. While practising as a fashion designer and buyer, visited an extensive number of international fashion exhibitions, expos and shows including London Fashion Week and the VH-1 Fashion Awards in New York, while advancing her education as a graduate member of the Chartered Society of Designers and of the Textile Institute. Upon graduation completed a series of short and professional courses in subjects including tailoring and couture at institutions including the Liberty Sewing School.
Work Experience | 1988 - 1996
While an undergraduate, Melissa gained work experience with brands including Gul Wetsuits – where she assisted on couture collection samples in sport fabrics including neoprene for Hussein Chalayan and Karl Lagerfeld. She was also one of a select number of students invited to work on a design brief for Courtaulds for Marks and Spencer, in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University textile design students. Further work experience included spending 3 months in Cape Town, where she worked with a handful of South Africa's premier fashion designers and a leading retailer; and spending a summer working as an assistant to the directors of the laser research department at Rutherford Appleton Laboratories [RAL] in Oxfordshire. Prior to commencing her undergraduate degree Melissa held several part-time and freelance jobs working for early Internet & technology start-ups.
Making images and noise in the studio, lab, and field; visual and audio arts, and design; creative writing and storytelling; studying ancient civilisations, belief systems, anthropology, and philosophy; history and theory of art, design and architecture; natural history, Earth sciences and the outdoors; sports - marine [inc. PADI OW qualified scuba diver], equestrian, and martial arts and combat sports [inc. freestyle kickboxing 1st Dan Blackbelt and CMAA Blackbelt listed, and further training and belts in mixed style martial arts, wadō-ryū karate, cobra kung fu, tai chi, boxing, and fencing]. Both under her own name and pseudonyms, Melissa has co-created and collaborated in numerous experimental arts activities throughout her career, with examples including vocalist in music projects across genres including contemporary folk and electronic dance [90s - 00s]; authoring a cartoon series [00s]; and muse, confidant and advisor to friends from across the creative fields.
Education & Academia
PhD, School of Architecture and Landscape, University of Greenwich | 2011 - 2018
Designed and completed a transdisciplinary doctorate programme developing 'Panarchistic Architecture': a new paradigm in resilience to major wildfires through the creation of complex adaptive architectural and urban systems that mimic the biochemistry, behaviours and relationships of indigenous flora and fauna species in the low, mixed, and high-severity fire regimes of the western U.S. Supervised by Prof. Neil Spiller at the Advanced Virtual and Technological Architecture Research [AVATAR] group, with viva passed in 2018, the programme built on research into the potentialities of biomimetic architectures initiated at the School of the Built Environment, University of Salford, 2010 - 2011
PGCert with Commendation in Innovation & Entrepreurship. Specialisms: Intellectual Property Law, Business Administration, Start-up and SME Finance & Accounting, Branding, Marketing & Communications. Business School, Kingston University London, 2009
BA (Hons) 2:1 Design Practice with Commendation for final year thesis. Specialisms: Fashion Forecasting, Design, Illustration, Production, Communications, Markets, and Interdisciplinary Practice. School of Art & Design, University of Salford, 1993 - 1996
BTEC Foundation in Art & Design. Specialisms: Fashion, Textiles, Sculpture, Illustration, and Digital Design. School of Art & Design, Cheltenham & Gloucestershire College of Higher Education, 1993
A' Levels Art & Design; History of Art; Fashion & Textiles, Gloucestershire College of Arts & Technology, 1992
GCSEs; Design, Biology, History, Geography, Art & Design, English Language, Literature, Mathematics, French, Cheltenham Bournside School, 1989
Further training [1996 - 1998] in subjects including Economics, Financial Markets, and Investing [orgs inc. Open University]; and Tailoring and Couture [orgs inc. Liberty Sewing School], amongst others.
Visiting Fellow/Lecturer/Critic & Thesis Supervisor | Mar 2003 – Present
Guest Critic at The Synthetic Landscape Lab at Innsbruck University (2020); Visiting Lecturer and Guest Critic at The Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL (2014 - 2019); Visiting Lecturer at the Royal College of Art (2016); Visiting Lecturer at the London College of Communications, University of the Arts (2016); Visiting Lecturer and Masters Dissertation Supervisor at Ravensbourne (2014); Visiting Lecturer at the Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture & Building at Coventry University (2014), at the School of Engineering at University of Warwick (2014), at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (2012), and at the School of the Built Environment, University of Salford (2011); Guest Critic at the Unknown Fields Division, at the AA School of Architecture, London (2011 - 2012); Visiting Fellow at the School of Art & Design, University of Salford (Oct 2009 - Oct 2011); Assembly Member at University of Salford (Apr 2009 - Apr 2012); and Visiting Lecturer / Course Leader in Brand Identity and Communications at the School of Fashion and Design, American Intercontinental University, London (Mar 2003 - Oct 2007).
Speaking & Chairing
Keynote Speaker, Panel Chair, Workshop Host | Mar 2003 – Present
Contributed as a keynote speaker, panelist, chair and workshop host and facilitator to more than eighty leading international conferences, seminars, festivals, awards ceremonies, and product launches. Past clients include: World Bank, Unilever, Toyota Motors Europe, Hershey's, Aegis Media Russia, Methven, Interface, Accenture, Mckinsey, NSG Group, Schneider Electric, Balfour Beatty, Grosvenor, Sheppard Robson, SUEZ group, Ministry of Defence, Chartered Institute of Building Canadian Institute of Planning, NESTA, Longitude Prize, New Engineering Foundation: the Innovation Institute, A20 Technologies, Lux Magazine, TEDx, Manchester International Festival, London Design Festival, Clerkenwell Design Week, London Design Biennale, Wilderness Festival, BioChanges, ADAPTr BioSalon, WILD: ReNaturing the City; IKEA's research laboratory Space10; V&A Museum, 5x15, The Monument, Connected Places Catapult, Festival of the Future City, BioEngineering Congress, Architecture Conference & Expo, Science Museum [London], International Conference of Bionic Engineering, European Centre for Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals, Vision London, Hay Festival, Edinburgh International Science Festival, Sherborne Girls, University College of Estate Management, University of Cambridge (Festival of Ideas), University of Oxford (Climate Forum), The Woman Leadership Conference, and the City of Greater Dandenong.
Writing & Commentary
Writer, Editor, Media Commentator, Figurehead, Presenter | Jan 2002 – Present
Published in 60+ international scientific, industry and consumer titles, with coverage in a further 150+ more. Past assignments include presenter of 'Leonardo's City' in the BBC Radio 4 series 'The Five Faces of Leonardo' ; consultant futurologist and media figurehead for the "Tech to the Future" report for CW Jobs ; being a "Beautiful Thinker" [media figurehead] for Interface's global 'Beautiful Thinking' campaign, including participation in print and digital media, an exhibition and events at their London and Manchester HQs ; author of 'Biomimetics: Learning from Life', chapter 9 in McGraw Hill Publishing title the 'Global Innovation Science Handbook' , which received an Honourable Mention in The Prose Awards 2015; consultant futurist and media figurehead for The Sleep Council's 'Bedroom of the Future', delivering insights on live-broadcast radio and in national news print' ; feature writer and media figurehead for The Guardian's 'The Future Designed Around You' supplement, sponsored by Volvo ; contributions to wide-ranging science, arts, trade, NGO, and consumer publications worldwide [see 'press' and 'publications']; interviews and commentary in podcasts, livestreams, and live and pre-recorded radio broadcasts for the World Bank, Startalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Sky, talkRADIO, Voice of Russia, and several regional BBC stations, amongst others.
Fiction, Film & Media
Author, Art Director, Producer | Jan 2011 - Present
Having worked with leading-edge digital and experimental media since the early 90s, produced her first mixed-media speculative futures project over two decades ago, and collaborated with concept, 3D motion graphics and visual effects artists and illustrators, music producers, and filmmakers to create several multimedia productions that explored future narratives, Melissa is well-versed in foresight storytelling methodologies old and new. A finalist in the New Scientist / Arc Sci-Fi Film Science Competition  and the New Scientist / Sci-Fi London Film Concept Competition , and receiving an Honourable Mention in the 47th Millennium Writing Awards  for her first climate fiction, Melissa writes speculative fiction in formats including micro, flash, and short story for print, digital, audio, and short film. Most recently she has formed a creative collaboration to found The Future in Flash™ [est. 2019] to deliver scientifically-plausible climate fiction through mixed art mediums for social and other media platforms. More information can be found at www.futureinflash.com. Examples of both published and work-in-progress micro, flash, and short fictions can be found at write.as/melissasterry
Panels & Boards
Curatorial committee, Plurality University, 2021 onwards
Juror, IDA/ePDA Covid-19 Design Innovation Grant, 2020
Advisory Board, The Woman, empowerment program, 2018
Juror, The Rookies International Awards, 2016 onwards
Advisory Board* Lifeboat Foundation, 2013 onwards
Juror, International Design Awards, 2008 - 2020
Juror, Imagine London as a National Park City, 2017
Scientific Advisor, Biospheric IV, science & arts project, 2016
Honorary Committee, World Biomimetic Challenges (Barcelona), 2016
Juror, Architecture Conference & Expo Awards (Cluj Napoca), 2016
Advisor/Collaborator, Biodesign Workshop (Izmir), 2015 - 2016
Contributing Editor, Unity magazine, 2015 - 2016
Advisory Board, PopUp Forest (New York), 2015
Scientific Committee, International Bioengineering Congress, 2015
Juror, Sustain Magazine Awards, 2012 - 2013
Editorial Board member, City City magazine, 2012 - 2013
Editorial Board member, Sustain magazine, 2011 - 2013
Panelist, Guardian Sustainable Business, 2011 - 2013
Scientific Committee, Int' Bionic Engineering Conference, 2011
Juror, International Green Awards, 2010 - 2011
Juror, Sustained Awards, 2009 - 2010
Contributing Editor, Sustained magazine, 2008 - 2009
Juror, Tosoma Online Public Arts Project, 2008
*Complex Systems, Futurism, and Sustainability Boards
Memberships & Fellowships
Member of Just One Giant Lab [JOGL], 2020 onwards
Member of the Design Research Society, 2020 onwards
Member of the Institute of Science and Technology, 2020 onwards
Member of Sigma XI: The Scientific Research Honour Society, 2019 - 2020
Member of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2019 onwards
Member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, 2018 onwards
Member of the Aristotelian Society, 2017 onwards
Member of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, 2017 onwards
Member of the International Society of BioUrbanism, 2014 onwards
Member of International Society of Bionic Engineering, 2011 onwards
Member of PSFK’s trusted trends professional network, 2009 - 2016
Member of Association of Professional Futurists, 2012 - 2016
Member of Sustainable Design Network, 2009 - 2015
Member of Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2007 - 2010
Member of Chartered Institute of Public Relations, 2006 - 2010
Member of Institute of Directors, 2006 - 2009
Graduate Member of the Chartered Society of Designers, 1996 - 1998
Graduate Member of the Textile Institute, 1996 - 1998
Fellow of Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, 2008 - 2016
Fellow of Unbox LABS, one of 15 UK researchers selected, 2014
Visiting Fellow, University of Salford, 2009 - 2011
ORCiD ID: 0000-0001-6190-5338
Awards & Honours
Honourable Mention, Fiction, 47th Millennium Writing Awards, 2019
Finalist, New Scientist / Sci-Fi London Film Concept Competition, 2016
Listed in the Libertine 100, celebrating women with complex, beautiful & potentially world-changing ideas, 2015
Listed in the 40 Women to Watch Over 40, 2014
Finalist, New Scientist / Arc Sci-Fi Film Science Competition, 2014
Best Innovation-led British Start-up/Initiative, for New Frontiers, Great Exhibition 2012 Awards, 2010
International Award for Benefit to Society, Mensa Education and Research Foundation, 2010
Special Recognition Award for Exceptional Creativity, British Female Inventors & Innovators Network, 2009
Special Recognition Award for Capacity Building in the Innovation Sector, BFIIN, 2009
Global Organisation Award Finalist, for Societás, Global Women Inventors & Innovators Network, 2009
Inductee of the Global Women Inventors and Innovators Hall of Fame, GWIIN, 2009
Enterprising Business Awards Winner, for Societás, WestFocus Awards, 2009
Everywoman Network Awards Finalist, for Societás, Everywoman, 2009
Listed in Future 100: Top 100 Next Generation Entrepreneurs, Global Entrepreneurship Week, 2008