Winners of 2020

The KE Awards celebrate the people who help to initiate and deliver impact and outcomes from publicly funded research through a diverse range of partners and activities. This celebration of knowledge exchange is more relevant than ever in 2020, as UK universities and research organisations mobilise quickly in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This has demonstrated the value of long-term investment in the research base and also in knowledge exchange.

In partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), we are pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 KE Awards



Head of Engaged Scholarship at Manchester Metropolitan University

Jennie’s contribution to PraxisAuril has been unequalled as she has initiated and driven initiatives in our developing mentoring programme and the new Foundations of Knowledge Exchange course, with such positive and enthusiastic energy that she motivates all those around her from committee members to trainers and mentors. She is a very valued and valuable volunteer.

Watch Jennie’s post award interview on our YouTube channel!



The University of Birmingham and Siemens: a partnership driving innovation in the rail industry and beyond

Siemens Mobility and the University of Birmingham (UoB) are leading partners for the £92 million funded UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN). UKKRIN, based at UoB, is a collaboration between industry, academia and government, launched in 2018, aiming to provide a step-change in sector innovation and accelerate new technologies and products from research into market applications globally.

From this partnership base, the UoB Business Engagement team, in conjunction with other Knowledge Exchange teams across the University, developed the relationship, initially with Siemens Mobility but also extended out to within Siemens Plc, growing the relationship from a point to point one to a strategic partnership. Relationship development at all organisational levels was key to this success.

In February 2020, UoB and Siemens Mobility announced a new, academic framework research collaboration, deepening the relationship between the two organisations. The first stage of this collaboration will see the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at UoB join with Siemens Mobility to deliver a pipeline of innovation for the rail industry, developing the application of fundamental research by working with a range of industry partners across the rail supply chain.

Following the strategic partnership with Siemens Mobility, Siemens Plc and UoB now also have a strategic partnership. This innovation collaboration covers research across additive manufacturing, intelligent traffic management, as well as digital manufacturing, with the Factory in a Box, an industrial scale demonstrator, showcasing how industrial digital technologies can benefit manufacturers and their supply chains.

A key aspect for the success of this relationship, alongside the detailed mapping of senior stakeholders from both organisations, was the power of the KE team to convene other parties of interest to Siemens.

Watch the partnership’s post award interview on our YouTube channel! 



Knowledge Exchange Community of Practice: UCLan Centre for SME Development

University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) Centre for SME (small, medium enterprise) Development, was highlighted in the Government’s Industrial Strategy as ‘excellent’ in responding to business needs and cited by the Universities Minister as an “impressive initiative” of Knowledge Exchange and interaction.

Led by Professor Sue Smith, The Centre for SME Development’s adoption of Communities of Practice (CoPs) created a significant and transformational impact on KE within UCLan. The CoP has delivered performance improvements by challenging the status quo, bridging teaching, research and practice, crossing the academic/research/professional services boundaries and providing specialist support and space for the CoP to flourish. A ground-breaking model; allowing for knowledge exchange, learning, value creation and positive impact on the practice within the University.

Adopted by global companies and institutions, including JP Morgan and The World Bank, UCLan is pioneering its use in Higher Education to strategically grow its knowledge exchange activity. This strategy is based on creating an environment that allows for knowledge exchange and collaboration across campus and beyond and supporting colleagues and students who undertake KE-based activities so that everyone benefits from new ways of working and all types of capital (social, educational, financial and emotional).

The gathering of like-minded colleagues to engage with the knowledge exchange agenda was the first step in taking greater advantage of a university environment that enables us all to be truly innovative, enterprising and impactful. The idea is that we help each other in the pursuit of sharing ambitions, shaping knowledge exchange activities and making a difference, realising even more value.

This social learning approach to KE has resulted in a sea-change in the environment at UCLan the model is progressive and transformative; and a benchmark for other universities.

Watch the University of Lancashire’s post award interview on our YouTube channel!



Rapid & efficient global dissemination of breathing aid blueprints in COVID-19 response using an express licensing platform

Following BBC publicity regarding UCL-Ventura, a breathing aid developed jointly by researchers and clinicians at UCL and engineers at Mercedes Formula1 team within a record 100 hours, enquiries arrived from all over the world requesting access to the blueprints for manufacture. UCLB offered to set up a COVID-19 Research storefront on its express licensing platform e-lucid to enable free of charge, licensed access to the designs. The UCL-branded storefront was implemented and fully operational within 4 days. Within the first 48 hours, over 1100 requests had been reviewed through the platform and 700 licences granted. Design files were automatically released to approved licensees immediately. To date, over 1700 licences for the design and manufacturing files for this life-saving device have been approved through the system to organisations in over 100 countries. UCLB has subsequently enhanced the website to now support free of charge dissemination of any COVID-19 related technology developed by Universities around the world.

E-lucid ( is UCLB’s successful online licensing platform that provides Universities and other research organisations an off-the-shelf solution to manage their non-exclusively licensed intellectual property for everything from design files, to material transfers, software products, physical devices, images and much more. E-lucid’s many UK customers include UCL, Sheffield University, Edinburgh University and Leeds University and in the United States, the Universities of Washington and New Hampshire.

UCLB, UCL’s IP commercialisation company, has a successful track record and a strong reputation for identifying and protecting promising new technologies and innovations arising from the UCL research base. In addition, UCLB provides technology transfer services to UCL’s associated hospitals; University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and the Royal Free. It invests directly in development projects to maximise the potential of the research and manages the commercialisation process of technologies from laboratory to market.

Watch the UCL Business post award interview on our YouTube channel!



IRISi – the Bristol Social Enterprise improving the healthcare response to gender-based violence

IRISi is a social enterprise established by the University of Bristol to promote and improve the healthcare response to gender-based violence through sustainable evidence-based interventions. The lead produce, IRIS (Identification & Referral to Improve Safety), is a specialist domestic violence and abuse training, support and referral programme for general practice teams that has been positively evaluated in a randomised controlled trial.

The impact of the company has been transformational for the delivery of the IRIS intervention, the staff involved, for the clinical practice of general practice teams and for the thousands of survivors of domestic violence and abuse who have been referred to specialist support services as a result. The establishment of IRISi has saved and improved many lives.

Andrew Wilson, Senior Research Commercialisation Manager, was instrumental in the creation of the company working closely with the Prof Gene Feder and Medina Johnson (CEO) to transition the IRIS service into a successful social enterprise, through accessing internal and external funding, supporting colleagues through the initially unfamiliar world of business and financial planning, IP and legal agreements.

IRISi now employs 12 staff, has accelerated the reach of the IRIS, is exploring new evidence-based interventions and working with the University to adapt IRIS for other healthcare providers (pharmacists, dentists, sexual health clinics). It is now beginning to influence local and national policy and form strong cross-sector collaborations to improve outcomes for DVA survivors. IRISi has recently received a £1M grant investment from London’s Violence Reduction Unit. This funding is enabling expansion across 7 boroughs, with the potential to support more than two million Londoners. The COVID-19 lockdown has led to an increase in DVA; IRISi is involved in the sector-wide response and has produced webinars and guidance to allow continued service provision and onboarding of new sites during the crisis.

Watch the University of Bristol’s post award interview on our YouTube channel!



Innovation, Impact and Business (IIB) Team, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

Over the past three years, the University of Exeter’s IIB-Cornwall team leveraged c£108m of investment into Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to provide sector-focused Research, Development & Innovation (RD&I) Hubs that have supported over 750 businesses. Over the period, the Team has grown from eight to over 40 staff, leading on six projects worth a combined c£29m and serving as a key delivery partner on 11 additional projects with a total value of c£79m.

The RD&I Hubs in agri-tech, health, marine, space, georesources, defence, energy and the environment have driven impact and created the conditions for economic growth and prosperity in a region with historically low levels of productivity and R&D investment. They met or exceeded targets, and most have recently been expanded or extended.

The Hubs are designed to create the conditions for economic growth and prosperity in a region with historically low levels of productivity and R&D investment. In this context, the Team’s main obstacles are the extremely small size of enterprises, the dispersed nature of business clusters, the region’s peripherality and inward-looking nature of local businesses.

The Team manages and delivers each Hub to mitigate these challenges by driving innovation for SMEs as a collective, whilst also providing bespoke solutions for individual enterprises. The peripherality and inward-looking nature of businesses is addressed by recruiting expertise from a wide variety of backgrounds. The Hubs also enable knowledge transfer between economic stakeholders and university researchers, directly shaping regional governance mechanisms and long-term social, economic and environmental strategies.

The Team’s swift, dynamic response to the COVID-19 pandemic is testament to the efficacy of this strategy, shifting to teleworking at full capacity in under a week whilst pivoting the focus of Hubs to basic business support and signposting to national-level funding.

Watch the University of Exeter’s post award interview on our YouTube channel!



Advancing the impact of University-generated knowledge in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) through Academia-Industry partnerships Initiative

Addressing the need to build R&D and technological capacity in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, this initiative defined Academia-Industry knowledge-exchange structures and practices conducive to local prosperity. Advancing such Academia-Industry innovation ecosystems is also important for UK HEIs seeking to deliver impact in these regions: as reviews of Newton Fund and GCRF grants note, failure to address innovation diffusion in ODA-target countries is a major obstacle to achieving the funding goals.

The international knowledge-exchange team from the UK, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia co-created and delivered the initiative – convening over fifty contributors from ten research institutions and seventeen actual SADC knowledge-exchange cases on aquaculture, agriculture, water treatment, conservation, climate change and tech and indigenous knowledge-based approaches to health.

The programme was initiated by a workshop in Botswana that defined infrastructure and policy priorities for the efficient identification, protection and application of promising SADC innovations and for the creation of local human, social and cultural capital. Relevant expertise was identified around the political economy of technical innovation, industrial policy for development, open research tools and IP models for societal impact and SADC research institution have since strengthened their knowledge-exchange offices, supported inventors around commercialization and established entrepreneurship training. This, in turn, drove a second workshop in Cambridge focussing on commercialization and knowledge-exchange practices and established a basis for the implementation of the numerous SADC-Cambridge collaboration identified opportunities – namely around microbial and electrochemical energy production systems and on water remediation. The initiative’s innovative design also motivated consultation from Innovate UK around the delivery of Africa KTN and has already been deployed elsewhere.

The knowledge exchange team continues to act as a network for the implementation of UK-SADC collaborative research projects that respond to development needs of Southern Africa and for the championing of knowledge-exchange models that can adequately respond to the development priorities of the region.

Watch this team’s post award interview on our YouTube channel!