The main barrier to publishing is the fact that the industrial sponsor wants to delay publishing anything until after the biodata and patents are back and not before the PhD is submitted to viva though my PI has instructed me to start planning and writing the general outline of a paper so its ready to go by next year. This is for the work that I am currently doing and it took 3 years to get it to work and its the main chapter of the thesis as well.
Ah OK, this qualifies as a perfectly legitimate reason for not having published. It is probably the best reason you can give and it will be well understood. Explain the industry/patent situation in your cover letter, and mention the fact that there is a manuscript in preparation.
The other chapters of my thesis are just pages of "tried this, didnt work, tried this, didnt work either, probably because of x so done this but it didnt work... and now we have no idea." Whiich my PI thinks will be very hard to defend in a viva.
Not necessarily a problem. If you have a solid chapter of things that did work, and you can tell a story of how you approached the failed projects in a logical way, it's not a problem. Depending on how interesting this discussion is, and how much material you have for the successful project(s), you can consider leaving some things out. I often see PhD students trying to cram every experiment the did into their theses - the truth is it's not necessary. You don't get points for length, short and interesting is better than long and dull. If you can say, "we wanted to do this, here are the problems we had, this is what we tried, this is what we learned, this is why we think it doesn't work, here are some ideas for alternative approaches" that still makes an interesting story that showcases your knowledge and skills. It is just tricky to write well. All the PhDs I know (including me) have wrestled with a thesis inadequacy complex as some stage. It's normal, don't beat yourself up over it. You'll get through it, then you never have to do it again.
The geographical inflexibility is a major issue for me, but its because I am married and my wife has such a well paying job that if we left the area, she would unlikely be able to find a position that pays as well. I am trying to convince her that she will find a similar role elsewhere but she doesnt think so. I think she actually loves where she works and does not want to leave and I cant force her to leave because of what I want to do.
Yeah, that's the way it goes sometimes, you have to make compromises for each other. My partner and I are both postdocs (she's a biologist), and we have been more or less successfully taking turns following each other around when one of us gets a good opportunity, but with a few periods of long distance. It's a pain, and I don't think I'd want to continue hopping around if she got a secure position - I can understand the problem.
Re the industry path, with postdoctoral experience (where you could gain experience designing projects and directing a couple of students) you could enter at a higher level and could have plenty of freedom to run research projects. You can also progress once you're in at a lower level. You shouldn't necessarily write it off.
Thank you for you post Dan, it has opened my eyes a little bit more to what I need to do and I am formulating a plan of action to help me get to at least applying to post docs. I will need a longer term plan for after. I wont put all my eggs in one basket just yet.
No problem. Keep your options open and apply for things, it's good practice. You can either choose a location or a job, rarely can you hit the jackpot on both.