Rafael is one of Spain’s most successful young entrepreneurs, balancing his academic research with running his own company.
Rafael was a child that enjoyed spending hours with the many chemistry kits he had. At high school, Rafael’s curiosity in science was fostered by a teacher that had part-time affiliations with the university. Fascinated by the research his teacher was doing, he often wanted to try it for himself. “I learnt that being an inspiration to students, researchers and scientists can really change your life.”
University for Rafael was a rewarding experience. The experimental and applied parts of chemistry were the things Rafael enjoyed most about studying chemistry and have been the theme for his current research interests.
“We take ideas all the way from discovery, experimentation to the final step of a marketable product.”
Rafael is now leader of the nanoscale chemistry and biomass/waste valorisation group at the University of Cordoba, Spain. On a day-to-day basis, he balances research, supervising and teaching at the university, with managing his own company. Rafael enjoys the variety of his role, from leading his team in advanced research to looking after finances, management and technology transfer.
Rafael’s research focuses on designing materials for applications, including catalysts industrial reactions, water purification and medicine. His group also works on maximising value from residues, mostly agricultural, converting them to high value-added chemicals, materials and fuels.
A young entrepreneur
Coming from a humble home, Rafael had to study hard to be eligible for fellowships year after year during university. Compared to other scientists in academia, Rafael explains that he started his journey with a lot less, and in 2009, the economic recession had started ,which meant grants, projects and students were hard to come by.
“It was a tough decision for me to move back to Spain after several years in the UK but I succeeded through hard work and dedication, support from collaborators, and a very good team of people around me. Everything the Luque´s group and the companies we founded from a few years back are all thanks to them!”
As a young entrepreneur, Rafael co-founded Green Applied Solutions S.L.U in 2012, which carries out research and development on waste valorisation to marketable products. Since then, he has been recognised as one of the top ten young entrepreneurs in Spain by the TR35 Spain and MIT Technology review, as well as achieving the RSC Environment, Sustainability and Energy Early Career Award in 2013.
Rafael recognises that an important part of his success relates to his openness and willingness to collaborate with scientists from different disciplines, both from industry, academia and from many different countries.
“I cannot count the countries with whom we have been collaborating with, probably more than 20 worldwide, including developing countries such as India, Brazil, Colombia, Morocco, Vietnam, Algeria and Iran.”
Rafael feels proud to be an inspiration to scientists and young students through his teaching and research. He advises others to be responsible for their own pathway by collaborating with others and most importantly, through hard work and dedication. Rafael’s advice can be summarised by one word:
“Fight! In this life, you have to fight for your career and pursue lofty dreams that may or may not take you to the finish line. It is worth giving it a try. The beginning is always hard and, at times, discouraging, but you cannot give up.”
Words by Jenny Lovell
Images courtesy of Rafael Luque
Published February 2015