The power of research at the University of Leeds in supporting the important work of Leeds City Council has been highlighted, thanks to a new report.
Academics at the Leeds Social Sciences Institute undertook a review of research collaborations between the University and Council, to understand how the two institutions might work more closely than ever.
The University and Council have a long history of working together for the good of the city of Leeds and its citizens. From addressing the challenges of climate change to driving innovation in healthcare, academics and council workers have worked together across many projects to ensure the University’s world-class research is used for the benefit of local communities.
The new report – ‘Unlocking the Potential of Civic Collaboration’ – surveyed both University and Council employees on the breadth and depth of existing partnerships, the benefits of collaboration, and asked them to identify factors that help and hinder successful collaboration between the two organisations.
“As the importance of civic partnerships between universities and councils grows, it’s vital we take stock and see how we can deepen our relationship with the council even further.”
Work is now ongoing to implement the recommendations made in the report. This includes the call for a joint research-policy collaboration strategy, which would see both organisations commit to working together on shared priorities including Covid-19 recovery, climate change, transport, inclusive growth and more.
Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: “Our research community is driven by the desire to make the world a better place, and by working with Leeds City Council we can apply our world-renowned research to inform policies that make a real difference to the lives of people right here in Leeds.
“As the importance of civic partnerships between universities and councils grows, it’s vital we take stock and see how we can deepen our relationship with the council even further.
"This report is a great springboard for further collaboration between the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council, at a time of great uncertainty for our country and region."
“We want to continue developing this collaborative relationship further to ensure that the skills, knowledge and experience in both organisations can be used for mutual benefit and to help the city.”
Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, said: “Civic partnerships are incredibly important to us as a council and now more than ever we should be utilising these.
“Leeds City Council and the University of Leeds have a long history of working together for the good of the city and our residents. We want to continue developing this collaborative relationship further to ensure that the skills, knowledge and experience in both organisations can be used for mutual benefit and to help the city.”
“We look forward to working even more closely with the University to implement the recommendations of the report, particularly looking at how the city responds to current unprecedented challenges.”
Real world impact
The review revealed there has been 118 collaborative research projects since 2015, 45 of which are currently ongoing.
The real world impacts include climate change mitigation, flood alleviation, developing a low carbon economy, child poverty policies, services for vulnerable adults, public health improvements and employment in cultural industries in the city and many others.
The project demonstrates that collaborative working with the council is a direct pathway to impact, which is essential in fulfilling Research Excellence Framework (REF) requirements.
The projects have an associated value of over £38m in external funding.
The online survey completed by 147 researchers and council officers explored the benefits of collaboration, along with enablers and barriers.
The survey asked for the benefits for collaboration and identified:
- 63% of survey respondents considered ‘looking at things in a different way’ as a benefit of collaboration.
- ‘Co-producing better solutions’ was cited by 46% of survey respondents.
The survey asked for factors which helped to enable collaboration:
- The findings indicate that ‘pre-existing relationships’ were a significant factor, with 73.26% reporting this as an enabler to collaboration.
- 'Closely aligned objectives' are consider a further enabler, with 53% citing this as a factor.
Furthermore, the review considered potential barriers to collaboration. Understanding such barriers allows for practical improvements to be implemented to foster effective collaborative working in future. The survey findings were supported by 33 in-depth interviews with researchers and policymakers, which provided further detailed insights into how to support collaboration.
Accelerating and enhancing collaboration
The review highlights 12 recommendations for accelerating and enhancing collaboration between the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council which include:
- A joint research-policy collaboration strategy should be developed setting out shared priorities and serving to optimise the benefits of existing partnerships, roles and resources.
- Identify knowledge needs and co-design research priorities to determine areas of focus for future research collaboration activities between the two organisations.
- Data analytic capacity should be optimised through establishing bi-lateral data sharing arrangements, with potential to advance a vision for ‘Connected Leeds’, where data is shared between public and academic partners.
- Extend ‘living lab’ approaches on the University campus and within the city to drive innovation
- Build research into Council procurement through the inclusion of standard clauses on potential collaborative research activities in its contracts with third parties.
The review and its 2 recommendations will be used to inform an action plan to accelerate research-policy collaboration, enhance civic partnerships, whilst complementing ongoing projects and relationships between the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council.
The full review is available online
Further information about the Leeds Social Sciences Institute is available at: www.lssi.leeds.ac.uk
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