Hertfordshire Science Partnership (HSP) is the University of Hertfordshire’s pioneering scheme that offers cutting edge facilities and research talent in a state-of-the-art science building for the benefit of local and regional businesses.
There are three ways that businesses can utilise the resources that the HSP offers:
Hertfordshire lies in the centre of the UK life sciences industry’s ‘Golden Triangle’, between Oxford, Cambridge and London. In 2016 there were 330 enterprises in Hertfordshire that focussed on pharmaceutical and life sciences research. While the sector is dominated by large enterprises, there has been a remarkable growth in SMEs.
“SMEs operating in the life sciences field often struggle to fund the research required to ensure a continual stream of innovative products is in development.” Professor Darrah Murnane, Hertfordshire Science Partnership Director
To help businesses overcome this challenge the HSP, through its Hertfordshire Knowledge Exchange Partnership (HKEP), gives any organisation access to a dedicated PhD researcher who will, uniquely, spend their first year embedded in the organisation. In conjunction with their academic supervisor and the host company, the researcher spends their first year gaining an in-depth understanding of the particular challenges facing that business and deciding how their three year research project should be focused for the benefit of the company.
Current HKEP projects include: investigating resistance to crop disease affecting oilseed rape for RSK ADAS Ltd; researching new ways of administering drugs to older patients who have difficulty swallowing for Fluid Pharma Ltd; exploring more efficient modelling for testing the effect of drugs on organs for CN Bio Innovations Ltd; and investigating growing food locally for Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation.
Help bringing products to market
To encourage life sciences research collaborations and to help new start-ups or academic research centres to bring products to market quicker, the HSP also includes a Therapy Accelerator Competition which considers applications for grants totalling £700,000. One such collaboration with the University of Cambridge is driving research to prevent the spread of a lethal form of pancreatic cancer. The new partnership will allow researchers to make rapid progress in designing and screening more potent drugs, generating the evidence required to attract translational funding and commercial partners.
“This funding enables research groups with different expertise to join their forces to explore the druggability of a novel protein target that is driving pancreatic cancer and to facilitate the development of new generation of cancer drugs,” said Dr Marko Hyvönen, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge.
A science hub for local use
A central consideration in the development of the HSP was to provide ways in which the University’s science building could benefit local businesses on a practical, day-to-day level. The ‘Research Hotel and Concierge Service’ is a first for businesses, especially SMEs, and is based on the shared use of specialist research facilities.
“We’ve made our brand new Life Science Laboratories available to businesses on a walk-in, pay-as-youuse, basis and a number of companies have taken advantage of this so far”, said Professor Murnane. “Additionally, we’re offering subsidised, specialist research-for-fee projects; the company only pays for equipment and laboratory running costs and a contribution to the costed researcher’s time.”
This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.