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Opening doors

How Research Councils UK supports successful knowledge transfer

With extensive research investments, Research Councils UK (RCUK), the strategic partnership of the seven UK Research Councils, is continually exploring innovative ways to encourage and support the exchange of people, knowledge and skills between the research community and the public, private and third sectors.

Each year we invest around £3bn in research covering the full spectrum of academic disciplines including the medical and biological sciences, physical, mathematical and engineering sciences, social sciences, economics, environmental sciences and the arts and humanities. As the UK moves out of the current recession, RCUK believes that research is vital for sustained growth and prosperity.

The need for open dialogue, engagement and collaboration between research, industry and policy is greater than ever. RCUK will maintain and enhance our support for knowledge-transfer activities so that the UK continues to be successful in turning innovative ideas into tangible benefits.

To facilitate these collaborations, RCUK supports a diverse range of activities that reflect the varied nature of knowledge transfer. For example, in February of this year we launched the RCUK Knowledge Transfer Portal, a one-stop shop that gives details of all seven Research Councils? knowledge-transfer schemes and activities and how to get involved. The portal is especially designed to help researchers and businesses find funding for knowledge-transfer schemes and make sure that they are aware of the huge range of opportunities offered by the Research Councils.

Opportunities are presented in four areas: collaborative research; collaborative training; people exchange; and commercialisation and development. Visitors can read a brief description of each activity within these areas and then click straight through to the relevant webpage for further information. The site is designed to be userfriendly and accessible, with a glossary for quick reference and a case-studies section which gives examples of some of the success stories of researchers? businesses who?ve benefited from our schemes.

Alison Campbell, Managing Director of King?s College London Business, says: ?This is a great initiative. Providing a gateway for business and the public sector to access the wealth of knowledge and expertise available at research institutions is essential for the UK as a knowledge economy. The portal will complement our own services creating significant partnerships to maximise innovation and to add value to our partners? business goals and help increase their global effectiveness.?

The schemes listed on the portal are incredibly diverse, reflecting the wide range of our research investments and partners. From enabling PhD students to spend time working closely with policy-makers, to giving industrial scientists time out to pursue research interests in a university; from an award that rewards researchers who have seen and seized unexpected opportunities for impact arising from research, to financially supporting further development of ideas with commercial potential, we support an enormous range of knowledge-transfer activities and opportunities.

It?s all about opening doors ? encouraging the exchange of good ideas, research results and skills between universities and other research organisations, business, the third sector, public sector and the wider community. Professor David Delpy is the RCUK Knowledge Transfer and Economic Impact Champion. His role as champion involves helping the Research Councils achieve their ambition to maximise the benefits the UK?s world-class researchers and research can bring to society and the economy.

?With the continued growth and emphasis on the UK?s knowledge-based economy, now is the time to capitalise on our strengths in research, innovation and a skilled workforce,? says Professor Delpy. ?We have recently asked all the people who take part in our knowledge-transfer schemes and activities to let us know how we?re doing, and where there are areas for improvement, and I?m looking forward to finding out their views. It?s essential that we continue to offer a wide range of knowledge-transfer activities and investigate ways in which we can expand the opportunities provided by the Research Councils.? Take, for example, First Water Ltd, which specialises in products that allow wounds to heal more quickly ? improving patients? well-being and helping to reduce the cost of treatment.

Collaboration with Aston University?s Biomaterials Research Unit, through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and collaborative PhD studentships funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), helped First Water devise new products, install improved process technology and boost manufacturing efficiency, increasing turnover by over 50%, from £2.4m to £3m, during the two-year period of the project.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between First Water and Aston University started in 2002 to develop equipment and methodology for the analysis of innovative hydrogel products. The partnership, funded by EPSRC and the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), was a huge success and has led to a further three related KTPs, enabling Aston University Biomaterials Research Unit to develop strong collaborations with smaller companies like First Water as well as maintaining long-term relationships with larger companies like Johnson & Johnson, Ciba-Novartis and Procter & Gamble.

By taking part in Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, First Water has leveraged additional projects worth more than £1m, although benefits of the collaboration include not only the commercial value of the resulting products, but the potential for a reduction in the costs of healthcare.

Research Councils UK is the strategic partnership of the UK?s seven Research Councils:

  • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

For more information, contact:
Tel: 01793 444592

The cost of prescribing chronic wound-care products is around £100m per year in the UK and it is widely recognised that costs can be significantly reduced and the well-being of patients improved through more effective treatment regimes. Successful collaborations such as this one are vital in driving forward developments in this area.

Knowledge transfer is just one aspect of how Research Councils UK works with different partners to ensure that the research we fund has the highest possible impact on society and the economy. Supporting and encouraging excellent and innovative research in the UK is the key to a healthy, productive and sustainable future.

To visit the Knowledge Transfer Portal, go to:

Added the 06 October 2009 in category Innovation UK Vol5-2

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