Ex-Walgreen Boots Alliance comms chief joins nuclear start-up

Laura Vergani, former vice-president, international communications, at Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), has taken up a new role as chief communications officer at Newcleo – a nuclear technology start-up that launched today.

Ex-Walgreen Boots Alliance comms chief joins nuclear start-up

Announcing the move, in a post on LinkedIn, Vergani (pictured) said: “I am delighted to share that I have a new, very exciting role with a new, very exciting company!”

Vergani described Newcleo as “an ambitious and disruptive start-up with the mission to develop safe, clean, and inexhaustible nuclear energy”.

The company is led by Italian physicist Stefano Buono, its co-founder and chief executive, and aims to significantly reduce the volume of radioactive waste produced by nuclear energy. It is also looking at achieving the more effective use of uranium fuel, while moving toward the use of natural thorium. The start-up has raised $118m in capital.

Vergani remarked: “I could not have had a better start to my role than to get stuck in with planning and delivering the communications strategy from the very beginning.”

She told PRWeek: “I am responsible for all aspects of communications and, as we are a start-up, this means building almost everything from the ground up. External and internal communications are both a huge priority, building our own identity and company culture marrying the business agility with the scientific rigour.”

Vergani does not have a full team in-house yet and has used Brunswick to help with the launch of Newcleo.

She said: “Helping build a solid and accurate reputation based on facts will be crucial, given the sector we operate in, and to ensure we overcome any emotional hurdles around nuclear energy. We also place great importance on our communications with our investors, and with the scientific and academic world.”

Working at a start-up is a departure for Vergani, who has spent 20 years in comms, working for WBA for almost a decade before leaving last summer.

She said her new role is "completely different to my past experiences in very large corporations and if these first few weeks are anything to go by, I’d better fasten my seat belt!

"It is exhilarating and empowering and, if you forgive the pun, incredibly energising.”

Newcleo represents a “much-needed evolution in energy generation”, according to Vergani. “Our success… will help the planet toward zero emissions, lead to radical reductions in nuclear waste and drive a material decrease in global warming.”

Career to date

Vergani started out as a marketing project leader at perfume and flavouring firm Firmenich in 2000. After 17 months she moved to Citigate Dewe Rogerson, where she spent less than a year as an account executive. In 2002 she joined Standard & Poor’s, where she spent four years as director, comms. 

She left to take up the role of group media relations manager at Barclays Bank in 2006, before becoming the bank’s head of media relations, Global Retail and Commercial Banking, before leaving in 2008.

After a year freelancing, Vergani took up a role as comms, marketing and grants manager at fintech charity Pennies.

In 2011 she took a six-month contract as global PR manager at Natixis Global Associates, before taking up an interim one-year contract as PR director at Alliance Boots. But she went on to spend almost a decade with the company, which merged with US group Walgreens in December 2014 to create WBA, and progressed to vice-president, international comms.

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