Tag Archives: UK

science policy

Make your expertise available

Featured image: President of Science & Technology Australia, Professor Jim Piper (left), hosts a meeting between Science meets Parliament delegates and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (centre) in 2016

Darren, what’s your particular area of research and how can it help to inform policy in Australia?

I am a medical researcher, working to understand the biology of cancer and neurodegeneration, and use that knowledge to design new therapies. Both diseases have a huge health and financial impact in Australia and internationally, and with an ageing population this impact will only increase, with obvious implications for health funding and policy.

When you first attended Science meets Parliament, how did you prepare for your research pitch?

I really didn’t know what to expect so I was actually pretty underprepared. I won’t make that mistake this time!

Did your pitch have the desired outcome? What would you do differently next time?

I had a great discussion with a Greens senator from Western Australia who had a strong interest in environmental issues. We talked about the importance of science in understanding the environment and gathering data as a foundation for drafting good evidence-based policy in areas such as fisheries management and forestry. In some ways I didn’t really have to do much convincing! 

This time I plan to research the electorate of the parliamentarians I’ll meet and the issues that might be important in that context. I’ll make sure I understand the issues they have flagged as important to them and think about how my background and research interests might align with those issues. I also plan to ask them questions to find common ground for discussion.

Describe your experience at Science meets Parliament (SmP). What did you think of the event?

I was really enthused by SmP, and impressed by the level engagement of the politicians and policymakers who attended. I found it an invaluable learning experience and a fantastic opportunity to meet scientists across a broad spectrum of specialities.

Seeing the workings of government up close (if only briefly) was a real eye opener and the various briefings and workshops were constructive and informative. I still draw on the things I learnt there.

In many ways it was a catalyst to me becoming much more interested and active in science policy and communication.

What advice do you have for other researchers who are trying to turn their knowledge into action?

Keep a constructive mindset and focus on how science might help, rather than just presenting a list of problems or complaints.

Listen to the concerns and issues that are important and make yourself available as a source of expertise and advice on the process and outcomes of science by fostering relationships.

Be aware that politics and policy development work to different timelines and use different language to science.

Try to take a bipartisan approach.

What have been the major challenges in getting your science heard by policymakers in Australia, and how have you overcome them?

The most difficult barriers to progress have been the relatively regular turnover of ministers, a challenging funding environment (which always seems to dominate discussions) and hostile attitudes to evidence and rejection of “expertise” in some quarters. 

Overcoming these is really challenging and incredibly time-consuming. My approach is to attempt to build dialogue wherever possible, and to be proactive in making science relevant and interesting to the general public.

I take every opportunity I can to tell people about the outcomes and process of science. Public support for science might eventually translate into it being heard at the policy level.

How do you think the relationship between science and politics in Australia compares with other countries, and what lessons could we take from overseas?

I believe we can learn a lot from other countries. For example, we could benefit from aspects of science and policy partnering schemes employed in the UK, science diplomacy schemes in the US, and the appointment of ministers with relevant experience and qualifications in places like Canada.

Most government departments in the UK have a Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) to provide scientific advice and PhD students can undertake three-month internship placements in the Government Office for Science.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) have a Centre for Science Diplomacy which aims to use to promote scientific cooperation as an essential element of foreign policy.

What are you most looking forward to at Science meets Parliament this year, and what do you hope to see more of in the future?

I look forward to meeting interesting and driven people, gaining new insights and hopefully gaining some traction with politicians about the importance of science and its ability to help drive the health and prosperity of Australians.

Click here to find out more about Science meets Parliament.

university-industry collaboration

Blueprints to a collaboration boom

Featured image above: Robin Knight (right) and Patrick Speedie (left) are cofounders of university-industry collaboration platform IN-PART. Credit: IN-PART

Robin, you’re four years into the IN-PART journey, and you’re already connecting 70% of your university opportunities with potential partners. Can you take us back to the start, and tell us how you first came to be interested in university-industry collaboration?

Prior to setting up IN-PART I was in academic research at King’s College London. I was always interested in collaborating with industry partners, especially when working in an area with potentially translatable outputs.

While undertaking my PhD I started working on an academic-to-academic platform with a couple of colleagues, and during that time I had a conversation with my now co-founder and long-time friend, Patrick Speedie, who was working in IP management and publishing. Our shared experiences and discovery of the need to better connect the two worlds of academia and industry motivated us to form university-industry collaboration platform IN-PART.

Tell us a bit more about IN-PART and how it gained traction?

At its core, IN-PART a tool to help Tech Transfer teams (and by extension researchers) find external partners interested in their research. The translation of academic research into impactful outputs is key to the advancement of society, and we wanted to be a key part in increasing those outputs.

So we began by building a network of individuals in industry who were both capable and motivated to interact with universities about research. Then we had to figure out the best and most efficient way to showcase opportunities to them.

After piloting a minimum viable version of IN-PART with six UK universities in 2013, we managed to find 25% of provided opportunities with potential industry partners in just two months. Three years and two investment rounds later, we now provide over 70% of each university’s content with potential partners.

IN-PART is all about university-industry collaboration. Why did you choose to focus on universities in particular?

We use the broader term of universities to represent publicly-funded research. Amongst these we will also include research institutions, and notably we recently welcomed Public Health England to IN-PART. They are a very interesting case as the outputs from a government lab differ from those of a traditional research institute, owing to the more hazardous bio-projects they undertake and different potential technologies that result.

Our industry audience are often seeking to access the academic behind available IP, especially if considering a license. It’s rare that a company would be able to take a technology and have it fit directly into their research pipeline – expertise is required for guiding that fit and this makes universities and research institutions such an attractive resource.

An important element of what we do is making sure all the content we have is ‘available’. This means we do not ‘scrape’ websites for technology nor trawl the internet, which turns up expired patents and technology where the academic is no longer associated. Instead we keep in close communication with university teams to make sure everything we have is relevant and up to date.

We do not work with company or industry generated IP seeking licensees. We also never want to be in the industry of trading IP for the sake of litigation, which from my personal point of view seems to counter our progression as a species.

I’ve noticed that at IN-PART, you restrict your platform to particular industry professionals. Have you found this to be important to the success of your collaboration model?

Yes, very important. When we first piloted IN-PART in the UK under a beta-test with six universities, it was clear that we wanted to only provide introductions to end-users in industry. By restricting our audience in this manner it meant that every contact we passed along was meaningful and high-value. What we didn’t want to do was pass on opportunities to work with consultants. That being said, consultants provide a valuable component within the ecosystem and we’re currently exploring how they can be included within our community.

To hear more from Dr Robin Knight about the key drivers behind successful commercialisation and collaboration, click here.

profile_inpartrobin

Dr Robin Knight is Co-founder and Director of UK-based university-industry collaboration platform IN-PART.

Click here to find out more about opportunities with IN-PART. To find more industry-ready technology from Australian universities, visit Source IP.

successful commercialisation

Key drivers behind successful commercialisation

Featured image above: Robin’s team driving successful commercialisation and university-industry collaboration at IN-PART. Credit: Jennifer Wallis, Ministry of Startups

Robin, it’s great to have you with us to share your insights into successful research-industry partnerships. Let’s start with universities. In your experience, what factors make a university’s research most ripe for application by industry?

That’s a good question, and one that doesn’t have an easy answer! It’s entirely dependent upon the sector, the company, and what they’re seeking from a university. We’ve never pigeonholed ourselves as being a ‘commercialisation platform’ per se, as we believe that university-industry collaboration in all forms can lead to great outcomes.

Some of the best instances of successful commercialisation have occurred alongside goals for longer-term strategic partnership with a research program. End results in this instance include funding for studentships, secondments, and research commercialisation on a large scale. By virtue of this, the earlier relationships can be established the better.

I’m a complete believer in ‘research for research’s sake’, but for programs designed to have societal impact, the best way of achieving it is with a commercial partner in mind from the beginning.

What have you found universities who’ve achieved successful commercialisation do better than others?

University tech-transfer teams have numerous roles to fulfil, and one of those is to manage two often very different mindsets and expectations when it comes to their academics and potential partners in industry. Their role is a crucial one, and being a steadfast, efficient liaison is key. That means being responsive, knowledgeable and more often than not, flexible to both the needs of the academic and industry partner.

In the first instance people need to speak, and if there are prohibitory conditions and pensive overseers during initial dialogues, it can sully a relationship from the beginning, which at its core relies upon growing and nurturing trust between parties. That being said, it’s a tough line to walk, but the best are those most willing to participate in the first instance.

What factors have you found to be vital to both forming and maintaining successful collaborations between research and industry?

Technology transfer in the university sector benefits from great membership networks, with KCA in Australia, Praxis in the UK, ASTP-Proton in mainland Europe, and AUTM in the US. These networks promote best practice amongst the community, and it’s always great to hear people sharing experiences whilst networking.

Owing to this openness within the community there’s been a rapid evolution for adopting new tech-transfer techniques (that work). From our experience it is those people who are most amenable to engage with new initiatives and alter how they interact, who work best. That means making the most of existing networks and proactively expanding them at conferences, on the phone, through Linkedin, and of course, through IN-PART.

Additionally, feedback from industry tells us that university websites are labyrinthine, and the sites that work best do not showcase the internal complexities of organisations, but have key individuals for contact regarding broad academic sectors. These people provide triage on inbound inquiries, directing them through the most efficient channel; essentially taking the work off potential partners who might struggle to identify who it is they should speak with in the first instance.

To hear more from Dr Robin Knight about breaking down barriers to university-industry collaboration, and emerging trends in university-industry partnerships, click here.

profile_inpartrobin

Dr Robin Knight is Co-founder and Director of UK-based university-industry collaboration platform IN-PART.

Click here to find out more about opportunities with IN-PART. To find more industry-ready technology from Australian universities, visit Source IP.

university technology

6 Disruptive University Technologies

All of these international innovations seek collaboration with businesses for co-development and knowledge transfer. Find out more on the university technology collaboration platform, IN-PART. To find industry-ready technology from Australian universities, visit Source IP.

Interacting with Virtual Reality

Credit: IN-PART
Credit: IN-PART

What is it?

A technology that allows users to interact with and control 3-dimensional virtual images through natural hand gestures.

What are the benefits of this university technology?

This new concept offers an immersive, engaging and responsive experience for users. Using positional trackers a touchless interface can register hand movements to move a 3D visualisation generated through stereoscopy – a technique that creates the illusion of depth in an image. This technology, developed by university researchers from the UK, can be applied in high and low cost applications including mobiles phones, video games, teaching aids, and also visual interfaces for medical purposes. What’s more, depending on the specific technology, the user may not even need to wear a head set!


A Gene Therapy for Major Depression

Credit: Brett Keane, Youtube

What is it?

A method that can change the genetic expression of a protein (p11) responsible for regulating the response of serotonin receptors – the chemical messenger related to mood, appetite and sleep.

Why is this innovative?

Using a virus-mediated gene transfer to alter the protein’s expression, researchers at an Ivy League US university have been able to normalise depression-like behaviour. The advantage of using gene therapy in patients with depression is, that unlike antidepressants or talking therapy – which may not always be effective in the long-term – this innovation provides durable relief from major depressive disorders and treatment-resistant depression.


Solar Power for a Changing Climate

Credit: Karen and Brad Emerson, Flickr
Credit: Karen and Brad Emerson, Flickr

What is it?

An all-weather combined photovoltaic-thermoelectric solar cell, designed to perform under extreme and varying conditions.

What makes this tech so special?

This hybrid solar cell, invented by academics from the Sunshine State, is adaptive and smart. By efficiently transforming excess heat uncaptured by the photovoltaic process, it generates surplus energy and avoids the increased resistance that traditional solar cells face under high temperatures. In snowy situations it can call upon this thermoelectric energy to keep ice-free, and during extreme heat it minimises operation to ensure a prolonged lifetime. All these are vital functions for a solar cell in a climate tending towards extremes.


Harvesting Energy from Vibrating Skyscrapers

Credit: Matthew Wiebe, Unsplash
Credit: Matthew Wiebe, Unsplash

What is it?

A system that can transform earthquake and wind-induced oscillations in high-rise buildings into electricity.

Why is it cool?

With the transition to a sustainable energy economy it’s imperative that every spare vibration is captured. This unique system, developed by researchers at a London university, offers simultaneous vibration suppression and energy harvesting from dynamically excited structures, aka – skyscrapers! The system can be tuned to weather forecasts and early-warning earthquake systems. And to the pleasure of office workers, it’s an on/off system; oscillation dampener by day, renewable energy capture by night.


Wearable Tech to Ward Off Deadly Pests

Credit: Erik F. Brandsborg, Flickr
Credit: Erik F. Brandsborg, Flickr

What is it?

A wearable device that releases micro-doses of scents (such as insect repellent) in response to the sound of a mosquito buzzing.

How might this change lives?

Preventing the transmission of mosquito-borne disease such as the Zika virus, malaria and the West Nile virus is an ongoing global health priority. This technology is being developed by researchers at a prestigious UK university to detect the sound of buzzing mosquitoes within a certain range, and then release repellent within that range to deter the offending pests. The device – which will be able to recognize the sounds of over 2500 breeds of mosquito! – can be easily embedded into an item of jewellery, piece of clothing, or even camping equipment and furniture.


Tunable Manipulation of Advanced Materials

Credit: IN-PART
Credit: IN-PART

What is it?

A micro-scale composite structure, designed so that its surface adhesion can be controlled by the application of a shear force.

Why is it needed?

As our ability to make increasingly delicate and complex materials rapidly grows, so does our need to be able to manipulate and work with these materials in manufacturing processes. In some cases, advanced materials cannot be suitably handled using vacuum or mechanical handling, and glue residues from traditional adhesives are unacceptable. This scalable composite, developed by researchers at an Ivy League university, could be used to manipulate thin layers of delicate materials without damage – simply by applying or removing a force on the composite.


The innovations in this article are hosted on the IN-PART university technology repository, based in the UK. All actively seek engagement and partnerships with businesses. Register to the platform for free to learn more and connect with the researchers.

To view industry-ready technology from Australian universities seeking partnerships, visit Source IP.

This article on disruptive university technology was first shared by IN-PART on 12 July 2016. Read the original article here.