Working with researchers for impact at King’s

Working with researchers for impact at King’s

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Case study by King's College London

 

King’s College London supports several initiatives to enhance the expertise and skills of its researchers. One recent scheme was designed to strengthen the impact of research through greater collaboration between business and academia. This initiative resulted in new collaborations, especially between Early Career Researchers and SMEs.

Along with linking academics to industry, such projects can provide access to seed funding for new technologies to enable them to move to the next stage, from ideas through to beta prototyping and scale-up. Such fundingencourages and rewards innovative behaviour and supports the development of projects which deliver tangible outputs or impact with support from business.King’s received a £100,000 Sparking Impact grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in 2013 to enable researchers in the biosciences to achieve greater impact from their research.

A team at King’s devised a competition open to all researchers - staff and PhD students - to fund short-term projects that would generate impact from the existing BBSRC grant portfolio.The funding was flexible and could be used for proof-of-concept; to validate new technologies and tools; and to foster open innovation. Projects could be based on any BBSRC grant made to King’s and support from industry (although not necessarily finacial) was mandatory. The majority of the projects involved SMEs, had short timeframes (24 weeks) and all applicants were required to produce a detailed project plan after attending a workshop.

All applications were reviewed by internal and external assessors.The competition proved highly popular – especially with young researchers and PhD students. For some, this was their first real ‘grant’ and experience of working with a company partner. In the first year of the competition eleven successful projects were funded.

Direct Impacts

Dr Colin Dolphin’s funding enabled him to work with Pro-Curo Software Ltd to develop his prototype laboratory data management system. The system, providing a comprehensive information source to researchers, complements traditional lab notebooks and will be available in 2015. King’s IP and Licensing Manager Dr Surbhi Gupta worked with Colin and Pro-Curo Managing Director Mark Walker to secure an exclusive licence deal which will result in a share in net sales.

Based on findings from a Sparking project on taste led by students who collaborated with a top chef to trial innovative taste strips, a CASE studentship was awarded to Dr Guy Carpenter in the Dental Institute.A team of two postdoctoral fellows, a PhD student and their supervisor, Dr Khuloud Al-Jamal, worked on developing nanoscale carriers to deliver anti-cancer drugs to specific targets. The results from their Sparking project led to a further grant application to the Wellcome Trust. They won national science image awards from The Wellcome Trust and EPSRC for their stunning images of cancer cells taking up nanocarriers.

A Sparking award to early career researcher Dr Vincenzo Abbate enabled him to accept, refurbish and install imaging equipment worth £300,000 donated by a major pharmaceutical company. The Sparking award fostered new links between Imaging Sciences and Pharmaceutical Sciences at King’s with a joint grant application recently submitted.

Buoyed by these immediate results, the King’s team of Michael Hill-King, Anna Thornton and Dr Manasi Nandi won the BBSRC 2014 Activating Award competition, securing a further £100,000 which is currently funding the next thirteen Sparking Impact projects at King’s.

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