Moving from academic research into collaborative projects between HE and practice introduced me to a range of funding opportunities. And also to the fact that not many businesses and organisations are aware of these! Knowledge transfer partnerships; Nesta challenges; Innovate UK; student/graduate placements; 50:50 PhDs …
I am currently leading a team funded by UWE directly, made up of a UWE computer scientist, a service designer and (soon) a legal service provider. We will identify a challenge within legal services business that might lend itself to be tackled by a purpose designed algorithm. My service design colleague will create a sandpit type event utilising design thinking methods – this will mean that the business and us will not jump to conclusions, but really identify the deep detail of the challenge first. After that, my computer science colleague will work collaboratively with the business on the algorithm itself – it will be low spec, sufficient to prove the concept of our approach. If the business then wants to take it further, we will work out how we will do that with them.
Another UWE team is currently collaborating with a Bristol law firm on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership around a tailored legal tech project. A KTP is a 12-36 months relationship, funded up to 67% by Innovate UK (find more information here). This funding option has been going for a long time, and can be applied for anytime on a rolling basis. A graduate, not necessarily from the partner university, joins the business and is supported by the experts at the university. Bingo!
We also place students and graduates. I currently supervise a third year student on placement with the innovation department of a large car finance institution. On my recent visit to see him and his supervisor, I was blown away by the positive feedback from both! The head of innovation spent around two hours with me to show me around, explain the function of her team, and showing men projects on which my student is currently working. She is 100% sure that she is going to hire another student for next year (in fact, she is already looking through our placement service), and my student will have put himself in pole position for innovation jobs, no doubt. How is this relevant to a Law student, and how is a Law student relevant to this? An all too common question! E-ve-ry-thing commercial is relevant to a Law student, and Law knowledge is relevant to e-ve-ry business. While year-long student placements such as this one are not subsidised, we fund summer placements of students and of graduates, 50:50.
If you want to know more about the illustrative case studies above, or about any other collaborative opportunities, do give me a shout (and/or read up here).