Knowledge Exchange Team of the Year was won by the South West Partnership for Environmental and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP). Photo: Jim Wileman 

University of Exeter celebrates impactful partnerships between researchers and partner organisations

‘Life-changing’ research collaborations including the first official project to reintroduce beavers into England and a report that informed the UK’s response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict were celebrated on Thursday 20 October at the University of Exeter’s inaugural Knowledge Exchange Awards.

The Knowledge Exchange Awards recognise collaborations between researchers and organisations that have made an outstanding impact on society, health and the environment.

The Awards were presented to winners in seven categories, selected from over 150 entries by a panel of industry experts that included senior staff from GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), PraxisAuril and the University of Exeter.

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter, said: “I am extremely proud of the meaningful, life-changing impact of our University’s research. At the University of Exeter, we understand the importance of partnership in overcoming key societal challenges and creating lasting solutions. Working with our partners and supporting businesses to drive innovation and co-create research solutions not only makes a lasting impact on the world, but helps support economic growth in the region.

“Each year, the University works with partners on more than 2,000 projects across many sectors. The Knowledge Exchange Awards demonstrate the quality and diversity of these collaborations, which are taking research into the wider world and making a positive impact for communities around the globe.”

Several winners showcased the University’s environmental impact. The Return of the Beaver project took home the ‘Sustainable Futures Award’ for influencing national policy on beaver reintroduction and facilitating the first officially reintroduced, free-living beaver populations in England.

The South West Partnership for Environmental and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP) received ‘Knowledge Exchange Team of the Year’ for transforming environment-led decision making with regional businesses and policymakers, with each pound invested in the project creating 20 times as much in value.

Two Awards went to projects that have made strides in creating a fairer society for all. Professor John Heathershaw was awarded the ‘Fair, Just and Inclusive Society Award’ for publishing a major report on illicit finance from the former Soviet Union and advising on the UK government’s Economic Crime Act in April 2022.

Dr Chico Camargo was awarded the ‘Early Career Research Impact Award’ for his outstanding collaboration with the Mozilla Foundation, which investigated the harmful and misinformative nature of YouTube recommendations.

Awards also went to collaborations with outstanding health impacts, such as Dr Leigh Jackson’s work with Covid-19 Genomics to support the UK government’s pandemic response and Professor Chris Thornton’s partnership with ISCA Diagnostics to develop innovative diagnostics for the life-threatening illness invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA).

Professor Chris Thornton (right) won Commercialisation Project of the Year. Photo: Steve Haywood


The Awards also recognised the exceptional contributions from students, with Sarah Fairbairn and Dr Roger Auster both receiving the Bright Futures Award for Student Innovation.

The Knowledge Exchange Awards 2022 were hosted by the University’s Innovation, Impact and Business division, which works to build links between researchers and external partners – locally, nationally and globally – so that research can make a difference to the ways problems are addressed around the world.

Chris Evans, Interim Director of Innovation, Impact and Business, said: “I am delighted to see so many impressive collaborations recognised at the Knowledge Exchange Awards this year. These highlight the strength of our relationships with partners – locally, nationally and globally – which are critical in taking research into communities and making a positive impact.”

The Awards highlighted the University’s growing reputation for world-leading research impact, which has risen by 72% since 2014.*

*As assessed by Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 – the national assessment of the strength of UK research.

Date: 21 October 2022

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