What the strategy means to me - knowledge exchange

Professor Dame Jessica Corner outside Trent Building University Park 920x400


Previous Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Knowledge Exchange), Professor Dame Jessica Corner writes about the University’s new Strategic Delivery Plan for Knowledge Exchange.

Universities are key drivers in the UK’s vision for science, research and innovation, economic recovery and for the regeneration and social transformation of the cities and regions in which they are located. To deliver this ambition, an exchange of ideas, expertise and discoveries with business and the communities we serve must be central to all that we do.

Knowledge exchange is a key part of the new University strategy. Now it is even more important as we have a vital role to play in post-Covid recovery. Sharing a better understanding of the pandemic’s impact on so many aspects of our lives will help build a more resilient society. And working with our partners to level up the local economy, including initiatives like Universities for Nottingham, will further prepare the UK for the opportunities as well as challenges ahead.

Our University has a proud heritage of research and innovation. From our founding mission to spread the light of learning, to our links to the discovery of Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Ibuprofen. It is through collaboration that our discoveries solve complex problems and address global challenges.

Today, we have a thriving ecosystem of knowledge exchange. We are one of the top universities for collaborative funding through Innovate UK. We have strong partnerships with businesses of all sizes, from local SMEs through to global companies like Rolls-Royce, GSK, Unilever and Google.

Our new technologies and spin-out companies, in industries from healthcare to manufacturing, improve lives through innovation. As I write this blog, Johnson and Johnson Innovation is promoting its partnership with one of our spin-out companies, Exonate Ltd, as a transformational healthcare solution to help reduce vision loss.

Our University of Nottingham Innovation Park is home to 20 companies employing more than 900 people. We have ambitious plans to double this in size over the next ten years and to offer space side by side with academic teams, in laboratories, using our specialist facilities or where manufacturing processes can be developed prior to scale up.

Last year we launched our Institute for Policy and Engagement to ensure our research and academics are at the forefront of shaping public policy and debate. We are navigating complex times and the value of evidence and trusted partnerships is more important than ever.

Covid-19 has reinforced the vital importance of research and knowledge exchange. I am proud of the way our community has responded. From vaccine research through a spin-out company to webinars to support the local business community.

A roadmap for R&D

The UK Government has committed to increase investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. Alongside the development of a Knowledge Exchange Framework, the Industrial Strategy and a UK Research and Development Roadmap there is a clear national effort and conversation being built in this area.

We are engaged in the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future. Nottingham is a consortium partner of the Faraday Institution aiming to make step-changes in the development of battery chemistries, systems and manufacturing methods. Earlier this year Nottingham was chosen to host the Driving Electrification Revolution Midlands Industrialisation Centre – a new centre of excellence and facilities for testing new megawatt electric machines for future green transport from the Getting Building Fund. Together these form the basis of important cluster of zero carbon activity on Jubilee Campus we hope to develop further to support the UK Green Industrial Revolution.

And we are starting a Future Flight Challenge project with Rolls-Royce and Advanced Mobility Research and Development to kickstart the next revolution in aviation. 

Our new strategic delivery plan will further align our University to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the changing world.

What does this mean for you?

People are at the very heart of the collaboration and partnerships that drive knowledge exchange. Our commitment is to improve our culture and capacity for knowledge exchange. We recognise the challenges we face and know there is lots of work to do. We will review processes and policies to ensure they are fit for purpose in an evolving landscape. We will work hard to support you and provide you with the time, capacity and opportunity to engage. We will explore how we further build knowledge exchange into the way we reward success and plan workloads.

Through consultation across the University and with external partners, we have identified five key priority areas to improve our knowledge exchange:

  1. Develop our culture and capacity to deliver knowledge exchange
  2. Maximise the impact of our innovation and enterprise
  3. Support prosperity in our communities
  4. Enhance how we engage with partners
  5. Deliver meaningful public and policy engagement

We are working across the University to bring this strategy to life. Faculties are developing implementation plans for their areas and the Knowledge Exchange Committee will ensure oversight as we deliver on our strategy.

My career has been shaped by first-hand experience of the power of knowledge exchange. I originally trained as a nurse and specialised in cancer nursing at the Royal Marsden Hospital, which pioneered putting patients at the centre of care. My work with the Institute of Cancer Research and later with Macmillan Cancer Support as Director of Improving Cancer Services further underpinned my belief that only by the sharing of knowledge – in this case between scientists and clinicians – can we bring about transformational change. 

I learnt early in my career how to develop research that could shape government policy by the way I posed research questions, designed studies and worked in partnership with funding bodies and government departments from the very beginning. Also, by co-producing research with end-users, in my case, people living with cancer.

I am thrilled that our University has an international reputation for translating our discoveries into real impact across so many aspects of our lives. From improving patient outcomes and addressing global challenges such as food security, to helping make UK industries world leaders in sustainable innovation and securing skills-rich, fairer and more resilient societies.

It is a privilege to meet so many wonderful, dedicated researchers whose curiosity and desire to solve problems drives this vision. Our new strategic delivery plan will help to accelerate your impact by strengthening our capacity for sharing knowledge with our partners and opening up new and exciting ways to collaborate and transform lives.

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