Advances in innovation and research
We have entered a new and exciting era for innovation and research at the University of Derby. Research is a fundamental part of our identity as an academic institution and we have invested further in our staff and our research infrastructure to help us achieve this.
At the start of 2020, Professor Warren Manning moved into the newly-created role of Provost - Innovation and Research, from his position as Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Engineering and Technology.
Professor Manning is providing the leadership required to further promote and embed an innovation and research culture aligned to the University's strategy. He will build upon the excellent progress the University has already made towards achieving its ambitions around the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF).
We have made strong links with a number of companies through our regional development work, some of which have the ability and opportunity to become global. We aim to share our knowledge to support our partners to realise their ambitions...
Professor Warren Manning
Provost - Innovation and Research
Supporting the region's recovery
As a member of the Derby Economic Recovery Task Force, we are deeply engaged in the recovery process that our region must now undergo to restore the economy and level up across the region.
Here are some examples of recent research projects we have been working on to support the city and region.
Responding to the Covid-19 crisis
As a university, we take the civic role we play seriously and are committed to supporting our local communities through these challenging times. We are in the fortunate position of having a wealth of expertise and knowledge to share.
During the pandemic, our researchers have continued to generate distinctive, world-leading, and impactful research as part of our on-going commitment to becoming a more research-focused institution.
Here are some examples of recent research projects which have been carried out in response to the pandemic.
Research in metabolism
As a result of a successful bid submitted in 2020, a new £1.75 million research and innovation centre based at the University's Kedleston Road campus will be completed in April 2021.
The Facility for Omics Research in Metabolism (FORM) will focus on the effect that foods, vitamins, supplements and drugs have on the human body, supporting the education of 800 highly skilled learners as well as providing over 20 jobs.
The objective of FORM is to improve the health outcomes of people through a better understanding of how these agents can improve metabolic conditions and treat diseases.
The centre has benefited from an £850,000 investment from D2N2 via its Local Growth Fund allocation, which enables D2N2, the Local Enterprise Partnership for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, and Nottinghamshire to invest in projects that benefit the local area and economy, supporting greater numbers of jobs, homes, and learners.
Tackling inequalities in a social mobility ‘cold spot’
Research has played a pivotal role in the drive to raise educational standards in the city of Derby, which was identified as a social mobility 'cold spot' in 2016. The Department for Education, via Derby County Community Trust, commissioned the University to conduct research that can inform practitioners across the city to close social mobility gaps.
Led by Professor Alexander Nunn, Head of the Social, Cultural and Legal Research Centre at the University, our team of researchers continue to carry out in-depth studies in social justice to address inequalities in relation to disadvantaged children, young people, families and communities.
Their work has had a direct impact on the organisational capacity, policies and practices of local organisations, and it is these achievements that led to the University winning the Social and Community Impact category of the Guardian University Awards 2020.
The social mobility work of the wider University, our community, partners and stakeholders, has also led to the University being named University of the Year at the UK Social Mobility Awards (SOMO) 2020 and Higher Education Institution of the Year at the 2020 NEON (National Education Opportunities Network) Awards.
Strategies to support a greener economy
In the wake of the government's Clean Growth Strategy, the University's Sustainable Business Research Cluster has focused on creating effective strategies to help businesses incorporate green practices into their operations
In November 2019, our researchers started a three-year project called 'DE-Carbonise', with Derby City and Derbyshire County Council. The collaboration is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and follows on from the successful D2 Energy Efficiency project which ran between November 2016 and October 2019.
In the short time it has been running, DE-Carbonise has already helped several local SMEs to reduce their carbon emissions or produce low carbon products. Through a carbon reduction audit, the project identified that Crassus Grab Hire, a local waste disposal company, could turn its current waste into two reusable products, which has the potential to reduce the company's CO2 emissions in excess of 14 tonnes each year, and delivering annual cost savings of over £60,000.
The role of sports science post-Covid
Dr Mark Faghy, Senior Lecturer in Sport Outdoor and Exercise Science, recently had his paper, Integrated sports and respiratory medicine in the aftermath of Covid-19, published in the Respiratory Medicine Journal.
Covid-19 has revealed inequalities in health, wellbeing and economic status across communities, and has exposed vulnerabilities in societal groups. With the risk of infections still high, the need to provide support for patients recovering from Covid-19, and potential for outbreaks of seasonal influenza, clinical services may well be overwhelmed once more.
In this paper, Dr Faghy and his colleagues argue that there is an urgent need to consider the long-term care needs of those affected by Covid-19 to ensure that it does not widen inequality. It suggests that in order to effectively tackle current and future health-care emergencies, we must marshal our resources and develop strong collaborative approaches that combine clinical and sports medicine disciplines.
Advice on having difficult conversations with patients during the pandemic
Under normal circumstances, the health services strive to ensure that difficult conversations are led by highly experienced professionals, face-to-face, and in calm environments. However, due to the pandemic, giving difficult news over the phone or when wearing Personal Protection Equipment has become necessary in some situations.
In response to this, the University collaborated with researchers at Loughborough University and Royal Derby Hospital to work on a project to provide guidance to clinicians who are likely to be having, or training people who will have, difficult conversations with patients suffering from Covid-19 or those closest to them.
Sharan Watson, Programme Leader for PG Cert Palliative Care at Derby. supported Professor Ruth Parry, an expert in healthcare communication and interaction at Loughborough University, to outline a series of evidence-based principles, known as The Framework, along with the help of Loughborough University's Becky Whittaker, and Dr Ruth England, of the Royal Derby Hospital.
The team shared the recommendations with NHS Health Education England and these have been used to develop a series of open access resources that aim to support healthcare staff who will be having difficult conversations in relation to the coronavirus.
Championing deeper connections with nature
Led by Miles Richardson, Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness, the University's Nature Connectedness Research Group (NCRG) has worked with the world's leading nature conservation organisations on their approach to strengthening people's relationship with nature and enhancing their mental wellbeing, while helping to tackle climate change and reduce biodiversity loss.
Knowing the benefits of nature connectedness on people's mental wellbeing, the NCRG created a series of resources and projects to support people during the coronavirus pandemic.
The SOS Children's Villages International (SOS CVI), an independent, international non-governmental international organisation, provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children in need who have lost or are at risk of losing parental care.
As a result of Covid-19, SOS CV Italy developed an emergency response programme to help its staff, children and the communities at large dealing with the ongoing stressors associated with life in forced quarantine.
SOS CVI Italy and the University collaborated to provide people with free access to evidence-based interventions that could help improve their connection to nature and psychological wellbeing.
In addition, the NCRG created online resources designed to help people look after their mental wellbeing when lockdown restrictions are in place and people are required to stay home and be socially distant.