Launched with enthusiasm for the achievements and future potential of effective collaboration in engineering by Vicky Ford, MEP for Cambridgeshire and the East of England, this one-day event brought together over 100 guests comprising funding bodies and technical innovators from small and medium-sized companies to celebrate the take-up of new product and process research, and to begin active discussion on a new phase of work.
The Research for Impact (R4i) event at TWI, near Cambridge, marked the successful conclusion of the EU Seventh Framework Programme and acknowledged continuing and valuable support from the UK Technology Strategy Board. Presenting research enabled through advances in materials engineering and joining technologies, the R4i event showcased 21 key projects - a small selection undertaken by teams involving TWI, which have created significant industrial impact and economic benefit.
Guest speaker Vicky Ford has been working with scientists and businesses for the past four years to obtain feedback and ideas on how to improve access to European grants and reduce bureaucracy. Explaining that there would now be a specific amount of funding ring-fenced for small businesses who wish to take innovation to market, Vicky invited these organisations to get ready for the opening rounds of collaborative research funding, which open in mid-December. She noted, 'I want to maximise funding to the region so that for science and research, Britain continues to get back from Brussels at least what it puts in. Key for me [in discussions with the European Commission] was keeping the focus on excellence - this will ensure that grants will go to the best bids.'
Industrial impact and economic benefit through collaboration was the theme of the day and the topic of featured talks from invited speakers including Steve Bradley and Jane Watkins from the European Research Council's UK National Contact Point, who presented on the 70 billion Euro Horizon 2020 programme, and Will Barton from the Technology Strategy Board, who outlined future TSB programme opportunities.
David Gill, St John's Innovation Centre, gave a valuable presentation on how companies can make best use of funding to 'cross the valley of death' and take research to market, and Tim Minshall, Cambridge University, gave an inspirational view on the importance of engineering innovation. He focused on the common challenges of 'doing new things' and the role that collaboration can play in overcoming these challenges.'
In addition, R4i hosted a series of one-to-one meetings between SMEs and technical experts, giving the opportunity for discussion about potential new research programmes and collaborations.
TWI's Director of Technology Aamir Khalid said, 'This has been a valuable exercise in highlighting the way in which research can meet a need and be put into industrial practice by bringing together the right expertise and knowhow' TWI has had direct involvement in 215 public-funded programmes working with 697 partners (including 179 small and medium sized enterprises) in the last six years.
For further information, or to find out more about collaborative involvement with TWI, please contact Heidi Dyson or visit the Public Funded Projects' area of our website.