Staff from the University of Derby travelled to London on Thursday night (June 18) to be crowned winner of the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award for ‘Knowledge Transfer Initiative of the Year’.
The awards, now in their seventh year, recognise outstanding leadership and management in the UK’s higher education institutions.
The Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering (IISE) - a new institute that makes the University of Derby’s engineering expertise accessible to local businesses – has redirected their knowledge exchange strategy towards supporting innovation to fuel local economic growth and employment.
Previously, small and medium-sized enterprises felt they could not access Derby’s knowledge exchange programmes, which focused on high-level skills.
In response to calls from local industry for access to research and development facilities with the latest technologies, a vision for IISE was outlined in 2012-13 and Professor Richard Hall was appointed as Director to lead the Institute.
In its first year, a strategic board of significant local companies formed and pledged £6.3 million in support and equipment. Derby has since increased its Knowledge Transfer Partnership projects with industry from one to 14 and appointed its first SME-sponsored professorial position in 2014.
Margaret Bruce, University of Derby Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research Innovation and Academic Enterprise, said: "Winning this award really shows the value and success of the University's engagement with business.
"We offer a range of business services, such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, our ‘Invest to Grow’ Fund, and ‘Time to Innovate’ initiative, which have been supported by D2N2 - the Local Enterprise Partnership for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
“We are serious about business and keen to engage with local industry to support innovation, wealth and job creation in the region."
Professor Richard Hall, Director of Research, Innovation and Academic Enterprise at the University of Derby, added: “We’re thrilled to have been recognised by Times Higher Education. IISE is about research, skills and innovation and marrying all of those together for common goals.
“Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are a fantastic way for a company and a university to begin to work together, and have been instrumental in creating a change in local activity to reinforce that Derby is fantastic for providing research and advanced technologies.”
The judges said that among a strong field, the University of Derby’s “institutional commitment” to the project was “notable, as was the response from local industry”. The “aptness” of the knowledge exchange strategy, given that aerospace, rail, and automotive businesses account for 65% of Derby’s economic output and 36% of local employment, also helped to convince judges that the entry “edged out” the other candidates.
Winners attended a black-tie event in at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, to celebrate outstanding performance in the competitive world of UK higher education.
The University was also shortlisted in two other categories; Outstanding Student Admissions Team and Digital Innovation of the Year.