A step-change in working with business
Our University has a strong record of working with external partners to translate research and innovation into economic and societal benefit.
An interior view of Nexus, one of the most visible elements of our Business Engagement Framework
Never has this been more important, with the Governments Industrial Strategy highlighting that the UK needs its universities to turn their ideas into products and services. With this in mind, we explore how our Business Engagement Framework at Leeds is boosting the support for academics to develop collaborative research and innovation opportunities.
Successful innovation is nothing new to our University; we are renowned for our world-leading research and innovation and were ranked top 10 for research power and impact in the last REF exercise (Research Excellence Framework, 2014). We also have more AIM-listed spinouts than any other university in the UK.
What is relatively new, however, is the increased level of research funding aligned to the UK Governments Industrial Strategy: building a Britain fit for the future through UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), the body which brings together seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England.
The introduction of impact to the 2014 REF has also recognised the economic and societal impact of university research and the importance of collaboration.
As Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, explains, this presents Leeds with an opportunity: When I launched our Research and Innovation Strategic Delivery Plan in 2017, it was clear that there was an opportunity to provide even greater support for our researchers to work with businesses and for businesses to connect to our world-leading expertise and capabilities.
Im delighted that, in support of that strategic plan, we now have a Business Engagement Framework that integrates and boosts the teams focused on supporting our academic community to nurture their relationships with business.
Depending on the nature of the work, one or more of the teams below will work closely with academic leads:
Andy Duley, Director of Commercialisation
Manages commercialisation of intellectual property (IP) arising from University research to establish licences with existing businesses or create new spin-out companies. This involves identifying opportunities, developing these in to commercial propositions and establishing IP management strategies.
Oversees research and innovation contractual matters, checking and approving funder terms and drafting and reviewing all non-standard R&I contracts.
Ian Shortland, Director of Research and Innovation Integration and Enhancement
Oversees relationships with large corporates and elevates discussions to the most senior levels within these organisations, listening to their strategic needs and translating them with the academic community into research opportunities.
Works with academic leads to build, test and deliver multi-million pound research initiatives with industry partners that transcend faculty boundaries and are strategically significant to the University e.g. the £65m Institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration.
Dr Ceri Williams, Director of Research & Innovation Development
Helps academics and businesses to collaborate to develop longer, larger, user-informed research and innovation proposals that are focused on faculty-defined priorities and more likely to be funded e.g. via UKRI and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
Dr Martin Stow, Director of Nexus
Provides seamless access to research expertise, talent and facilities across the University. The team facilitates productive relationships between entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs with our academic community to develop the right partnerships to drive economic and societal impact. The Nexus team can act as a first point of contact for academics or businesses who do not know which team(s) they need to work with.
One of the most visible elements of this enhanced approach on campus is Nexus, which is preparing to open its doors to tenants and the broader Nexus community of academics, entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs soon.
Alongside high-quality, flexible office and lab space, Nexus facilities include multiple co-working areas, a business lounge, café and meeting and events space. These are great spaces to support formal and informal connections between academics and businesses or to drop by for coffee with colleagues. There is also a virtual membership package so that businesses can connect with the University without being Nexus tenants.
Dr Martin Stow, Nexus Director, explains: Collaboration and innovation go hand-in-hand, and when academia and business work together, great things can happen. By bringing together pools of talent, sharing expertise and collaborating, trusted relationships can be formed and developed between businesses and academics.
The engagement team based at Nexus helps initiate these connections by brokering initial conversations and understanding businesses commercial needs then matching their requirements to the skills and expertise of the University. Through this team, our academic community will have exposure to more targeted research opportunities and access to the facilities and support on offer at Nexus.
Dr Stow continues: Universities have a key role to play in the economic development of the UK. We have the opportunity and the resources here at Leeds to become an innovation powerhouse driving economic, regional and societal change.
Making it easy to work with us
For businesses, the aim of the Business Engagement Framework (BEF) is to make it as easy as possible for them to work with the University to help them thrive, grow and innovate.
The Universitys website now directs businesses to contact Nexus initially as their way into the University, unless they already understand which element of our business framework they wish to access. Of course, there are multiple business collaborations that already exist across the University in individual academic teams and the new BEF will not replace those, but will help provide more support to develop deeper and broader relationships.
- If you have a business referral or query, please do contact the relevant team from the framework. If you are not sure who to contact, please talk to Nexus on 0113 306 1444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Research and Innovation Service has moved in to the Nexus building, with an official launch planned for May.
- Follow news about Nexus on the In Depth section of For Staff.