Posts By / Julie Northam

Big Ideas for the Future

Universities Week 2011 is taking place between 13-19 June.Universities Week 2011 logo

The campaign aims to highlight the essential role of UK universities and their impact on the economy, culture, society, the environment and much more.

As part of Universities Week 2011RCUK and Universities UK are seeking submissions for Big Ideas for the Future. The project is exploring research currently taking place in universities that is likely to have a major impact on the UK and the world in the future.

All research organisations are invited to submit ideas and suggestions can be from any academic discipline. The only rule is that the research must be happening now or imminently and it must be something that will result in a real impact on people’s lives.

The proposed categories for entries are below, but suggestions for others are welcome:

  • Delivering a healthy future.
  • People and environment: sustainability for the next century and beyond.
  • The creation of recreation; how we’ll use our leisure time in fifty years.
  • The future of humanity and society.
  • Getting around: our planet, and beyond.
  • Capital ideas: the future of commerce and business.

The Research Development Unit will be liaising with Marketing & Communications to submit a selection of the excellent research undertaken at BU to Universities Week. If you would like to nominate your research or a colleague’s research then please contact Julie Northam by Friday 8 April.

A selection of the submissions will appear in a report ‘Big Ideas for the Future’ that will be launched during Universities Week on Thursday 16 June.

A selection of Big Idea impact case studies can be read here.facebook

You can follow Universities Week on Facebook:

Enterprise Education and Employer Engagement explained

You may hear the terms Enterprise Education and Employer Engagement banded about quite a lot but what do they actually mean? Jo Stark, BU’s Employer Engagement and Entrepreneurship Manager, provides some further clarification.

Enterprise Education

The term “Enterprise Education” at BU draws together existing pockets of best practice into a coherent whole that will provide a focus for further development across the institution and beyond institutional boundaries.

For an example of this see the Dynamo Enterprise Boot Camp Video which provides a bite size overview of the 2010 enterprise boot camp for students that BU facilitated with four other regional universities in collaboration with local businesses.

By embedding opportunities for our students to engage in external activity within the curriculum, academics can not only enhance our students’ employability, but also develop their profile with employers. This can be embedded through live consultancy projects, business simulation challenges and involvement in the entrepreneurship society – Business Mania.Business Mania logo

Although activity such as student placement and graduate recruitment does not create direct enterprise income, it offers BU and its academics a significant platform for employer engagement. As an example, by helping our graduates to gain employment not only develops relationships with employers, but enables the academic to maintain the relationship with the graduate, who, in a few years could become a client for BU.

By demonstrating “enterprising” attributes through their approach to teaching and research, academics will not only encourage their students to think this way, but will also develop opportunities for income-generating activity.

The team in the Centre for Research and Enterprise (CRE) have recently supported academics in DEC to develop a dedicated enterprise module in the Software Systems degree framework. The team not only helped with the development of curriculum, but also provide external speakers for guest lectures to help enhance the learning experience for the students and develop wider opportunities.

Employer Engagement

At BU ‘Employer Engagement’ is defined as any form of contact between BU and an employer that attempts to effect a change in the intellectual capital, understanding or behaviour of an employer, for specific purpose of commercial gain on BU’s part or to benefit the economy of region and wider public.

BU takes its interpretation of Employer Engagement therefore as Enterprise in its widest sense. BU includes activity focussed at both business and community:

1.    Demand led learning and teaching provision (Short courses)

2.    Workforce Development (CPD)

3.    An active stakeholder in the economic prosperity of the conurbation and wider region

4.    Employer focussed curriculum development

5.    Employability (student and graduate placements)

In order to do this, it is vital that, as part of this activity an in-depth understanding of HE and economic policy is maintained, not only enabling BU to remain reactive to external drivers, but also remain competitive in an increasingly dynamic market place.

Through this activity CRE is able to generate opportunities for the institution, academic staff and students. In recent months CRE has established a strategic relationship with a blue chip multi-national and brokered the opportunity across to a leading Prof. Numerous placement and graduate recruitment opportunities are captured and disseminated to the appropriate schools. This activity also enables CRE to identify employer demand for specific short course development.

For further information contact Jo Stark who will be happy to help. Otherwise check out the BU Enterprise Intranet pages on Enterprise Education and Employer Engagement.

Thoughts on writing recommendations for a research thesis

Prof Edwin van Teijlingen (HSC) examined a PhD candidate last year whose recommendations were only Prof Edwin van Teijlingenvaguely related to the work presented in the thesis. Since then he has examined several PhD theses which had an interesting range of recommendations not directly related to the student’s study findings. Listed below are his ideas about ‘appropriate’ recommendations:

Many postgraduate students make recommendations that are too broad, too generic, or not directly related to the exact topic of their research. These recommendations are not wrong; they are simply not specific / relevant enough. Examiners like to see some more mundane recommendations that come specifically from the thesis / research work.

First, you should not really recommend anything that you have not previously discussed in the Discussion. The rule ‘no new material’ in your Conclusion is also applicable to your ‘Recommendations’.University of Olomouc thesis from 1713 with motif of Ottoman Wars

Secondly, recommendations are not the same as conclusions. Consider recommendations go one step further than conculsions as (a) ‘something’; (b) ‘someone’; and (c) ‘needs to do’.

Furthermore, there may be different levels within your set of Recommendations, with recommendations for (a) academic (i.e. more research is needed into…), (b) for policy-makers (e.g. data protection act needs to change to accommodate…); for (c) practitioners (e.e. managers in local government need to consider the mental well-bing of their staff); or recommendation for (d) training / education (e.g. health promotion officers employed in inner-city Birmingham need to be trained in being culturally sensitive to several large ethnic minority communities to help them fulfil their role better in the community).

We’re interested to know your thoughts on this and to hear your experiences of advising postgraduate students when writing their recommendations. Let us know what you think by adding a comment.

Interact with the Blog!

We’d love you to interact with the Blog!BU Research Blog

Commenting on a post is really easy:

1) Choose a post you’d like to comment on

2) Click on the blue post title

3) This will open the post page

4) Scroll to the bottom

5) Add your comments in the box title ‘leave a reply’

Your comments will then be appended to the end of the post 😀

This is a great way to express your views, collaborate with one another, and improve research at BU!

What is a KTP?

KTPHave you ever wondered what a KTP is, how it works and how you could get involved? Then wonder no more! Dr Martyn Polkinghorne demystifies the elusive KTPs!

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) are partly Government funded and aim to help businesses absorb and benefit from the knowledge/expertise residing within UK Universities and Colleges. The rationale behind each KTP is the formation of a 3-way partnership between a ‘Business’ partner, a ‘Knowledge’ partner and a ‘Graduate’ partner that leads to genuine and sustainable benefits for all involved.

BU has undertaken Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (including the previous Teaching Company Scheme) for 22 years during which time we have run approximately 90 projects that have brought in over £9 million of enterprise income.

When funding is agreed, a Graduate is employed by the University, but based full-time at the organisation to deliver the project. Approx. 1/2 day of specialist academic effort is provided to support the project and drive it forward. Although normally with a business partner, KTPs can sometimes also be run with social enterprises and public sector bodies.

The project budget pays for the Graduate, the Academic support and related training, travel and equipment. Even with the Government’s funding KTP is not a cheap solution, but for the right project it can provide the external partner with excellent value for money.KTP diagram

The major sponsor of KTP remains the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) which funds approx 50% of all projects. Both the TSB, and the other minor sponsors (Research Councils, Regional Development Agencies, Government Departments, ERDF etc) have strict priorities for the project sectors and organisational types that they wish to support.

Potential projects must address the funding criteria of one of the sponsors and be able to demonstrate high levels of innovation, impact and challenge.

Recently completed KTPs include a fantastic project with Cholderton Rare Breeds Farm Park in which Steven Richards from the School of Tourism helped the company to develop and implement a new marketing strategy which increased visitor numbers to the tourist attraction, and helped to safeguard the future of the organisation. Further examples of KTP case studies can be accessed here.

If you want to find out more about KTPs or discuss an idea for a potential KTP then contact Martyn Polkinghorne.

Further information can be found on the BU KTP webpages or the national KTP website.

Subscribe to the Blog!

Keep up to date with Research at BU by subscribing to the BU Research Blog. By subscribing you will receive one email per day detailing all of the blog posts from the last 24 hours. To subscribe simply follow the steps below:

1) From the BU Research Blog homepage enter your email address in the space at the top right side of the page.BU Research Blog

2) Click on ‘Subscribe’.

3) You will receive an email containing a hyperlink.

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5) You are now subscribed to the BU Research Blog – hooray!

It’s that easy 🙂

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Dr Ben Thomas and Prof Mark Hadfield – RNLI slipways

Lifeboat being launched (c) RNLI Nicholas LeachDr Ben Thomas and Prof Mark Hadfield (DEC) have been undertaking some marvellous research with the RNLI. The research was shortlisted for the 2010 Times Higher Education (THE) Award for Outstanding Contribution to Innovation & Technology, and you can read all about what they’ve achieved here on the blog!

Ben Thomas, RNLI researchThe Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charitable organisation that provides marine search and rescue cover along the entire coast range of the UK and Ireland. Lifeboat slipway stations are an essential part of the RNLI’s coastal protection; they allow lifeboat stations to be located in areas where there is no natural harbour and for lifeboats to be launched in almost any weather conditions. However, as the size and mass of lifeboats have increased over the years the traditional wood or steel lined slipways have been shown to be insufficient, with problems of friction and wear affecting the reliability of slipway launches. New composite slipway panels have reduced these issues but high friction and wear problems remain, with replacement costs for the expensive composite panels placing strain on the RNLI’s scarce resources.

Traditionally friction is reduced by manually applying grease to the slipway, but this practice has safety implications for the crew and has raised environmental concerns regarding the repeated release of grease into the sea at the base of the slipway.

Analysing the contact conditions between the 15cm wide keel of a 35 tonne lifeboat and the slipway lining presented considerable technical challenges, particularly as the lifeboat approaches speeds of 45kph during launch, and this required the development of a new multi-disciplinary approach using aspects of tribology, finite element analysis, life cycle analysis and real world data collection, with experimental results combined with real slipway experience and computer simulations to develop  a deeper understanding of the nature of the friction and wear problems on the slipway.

The data collected indicated that the reliability of lifeboat slipways could be greatly increased by ensuring the slipway panels were well aligned along the length of the slipway, it also showed that a small change to the panel geometry to incorporate a chamfer significantly reduced wear development and the adverse effects of panel misalignments on launch and recovery friction.

The project showed that it was feasible to substitute the currently used marine grease lubrication with biodegradeable greases, reducing the effects of grease bioaccumulation at the base of the slipway. The research also proposed the use of a novel water lubrication system instead of grease directly applied to the slipway, with the potential to greatly reduce both the operational costs and the environmental impact of slipway launches. These water lubricated systems have subsequently begun to be adopted across the RNLI slipway network.

The research recommendations will be used by the RNLI to improve the lifeboat slipways in the UK and Ireland. This will increase the reliability of slipway launches and recoveries and reduce the risk exposure of the volunteer lifeboat crew. The improvements will also reduce the operating costs of the RNLI.

The changes recommended by the research are already underway, the new slipway lining material has been fitted to the newer slipway stations (e.g. Tenby, Padstow etc.) already and the water lubrication systems are also in place. The recommended slipway lining material and water lubrication systems are being phased in across the remaining UK slipway station network over the next few years, coinciding with the simultaneous rollout of the new Tamar lifeboat to the slipway stations.

The combined effects of Prof Hadfield and Dr Thomas’s research recommendations will allow the RNLI to save up to £200,000 per year in operational costs once these are adopted across the slipway station network. The changes will also increase the reliability of lifeboat slipway launches and recoveries, reducing the risk exposure of the volunteer lifeboat crew who crew each slipway station, and allowing the continued safe operation of the RNLI’s crucial role in preserving life along the coast of the UK and Ireland. The final benefit is showing that the previous lubrication system involving the manual application of grease to the slipway by lifeboat crewmen can be replaced by an automatic water based system, thus reducing the cost and environmental impact of lifeboat slipway launches as well as the risks lifeboat crew members are exposed to on the slipway.

Dr Ben Thomas undertook the research, supervised by Prof Hadfield, as part of a CASE award studentship funded by the EPSRC and the RNLI. In addition, the RNLI commissioned Prof Hadfield and Dr. Thomas to undertake additional research into alternative slipway materials in 2009.

Further details:

RNLI webpage: Lifeboat project ready for awards splash

BBC Cornwall news story: RNLI slipway research

AlphaGailieo webpage: RNLI lifeboat launch benefits from BU research