Collaboration Benefits for Academics: In conversation with Prof. Rachel McCrindle

How can Academics benefit from getting involved in KTC projects?

We caught up with Professor of Computer & Human Interaction Rachel McCrindle to talk awards, awards, research, promotions , and the importance of collaboration.

 

What are the key benefits of working with the KTC in enabling collaboration with partners?

There are many benefits of working with the KTC in enabling collaboration with partners, right the way through from the initiation of contacts and helping to prepare proposals, to helping manage projects and promote and market them once they are underway.

What’s your motivation behind working with external partners?

It’s really important these days to work with external partners. Many projects are multi-disciplinary and in doing those multi-disciplinary projects including multiple stakeholders it brings in various levels and areas of expertise in order to solve key strategic issues.

Has the KTC enabled you to work with companies that you might not otherwise have found / been interested in?

The knowledge Transfer Centre has been incredibly important in terms of delivering external partnerships, so very often external organisations have gone to the KTC with a problem that needs solving. The expertise they possess means they can find the right Academic, whether that be me or whoever, so that we can work on a solution to that issue and progress with a project.

What impacts and benefits have arisen / will arise as a result of the collaboration?

The benefits arising from collaborations with external partners are many; partly it’s about a two-way transfer of knowledge, it’s about working on key strategic problems with a real-world impact, and it’s about translating research into the real world.

A concern for Academics has previously been raised in that they are not sure if they can still publish when part of KTP. Could you please share your experiences on this?

It has been raised at times that it’s difficult to publish; it is possible to do, but it is a slightly different process. For instance, a lot of the material will be commercially confidential and therefore can’t be shared, but by working with the external organisation and discussing this with industry it is still possible to publish in partnership with the company and make sure the work that’s published is ok to be released. So, in answer to your question, it can be slightly more difficult, but it is possible, and you will be offered the right support to know how to go about getting your research out there.

How do you go about prioritising your workload when part of a project?

Prioritisation of workload is always going to be a challenge for Academics within a university; there are many different pools between research and teaching enterprises and projects both internal and external. I think the key is being organised and carefully managing your time to ensure you’re keeping on top of your workload model, which is something that comes with experience. There is a strong element of scheduling and projection to see what’s coming up and what the key projects will be to ensure that you diarise them accordingly and attempt to conduct them in an efficient, sensible order. Also trying to schedule your time to have a day where you’re free of teaching can really be beneficial when taking part in a project, as you then have a day free to visit the company and spend some time with them. Communication is a key factor with the company to make sure everyone is on the same page, and that is just as important internally as it is externally.

Have the collaborations you’ve been involved in influenced your research at all? Have they opened up new areas of research interest?

Working with the Knowledge Transfer Centre has been incredibly important in terms of expanding my research. My key research areas have perhaps not changed too much, but the domains in which I have applied that research has expanded enormously. I have worked with education companies, broadcasting companies, manufacturing companies, health companies: a huge number of organisations across the whole spectrum who have been both incredibly interesting and state of the art. It’s hugely rewarding to see the work that we’ve been doing within the University being applied in the ‘real world’.

What are the key challenges to be mindful of when working with companies? How did you overcome them?

With any of the challenges we face when part of a collaboration it’s important to remember that everyone has different priorities, different pressures, and occasionally different languages in terms of Academia vs. industry. The key thing is to be very mindful on both sides that there are often competing priorities for people’s time, and that those priorities are completely subject to change quite rapidly, so there needs to be a degree of flexibility and understanding. I think most importantly the key thing is to establish a strong team ethic and determine how the team can best work together. I’ve been involved with many projects now and every project and every team are slightly different, but at the centre of it all communication is the key, so providing a high standard of communication and trust with each partner should help overcome any challenges. It’s also important to remember to have fun; the biggest challenge is the project itself and trying to find a solution to a problem, so you have to step back sometimes and enjoy the work you’re doing and the impact it’s ultimately going to have.

Have the projects you’ve been involved with helped you develop any specific teaching materials, or realise any teaching and learning benefits?

Working with industry and external organisations has been incredibly useful for developing additional teaching material and enhancing the student experience. There are many ways in which our collaborators have helped us with this, including enabling us to develop case studies of the work that we’ve done, and reinforcing the research that we’re carrying out at the University of Reading to show how that it’s applicable in the real world, enriching lectures with examples. On occasion the projects that I’ve been involved with have resulted in the company physically coming in and giving a lecture, or running and sponsoring hackathons for the students, giving them some extra experience outside of the classroom. Working with the Knowledge Transfer Centre and taking part in projects has been a richly rewarding experience throughout for myself and my students.

How has the KTC been able to help you?

There have been many ways in which the KTC at the University of Reading has helped me individually. They have helped me find external collaborators, put proposals together, and they have helped me structure strong and effective teams. Many of the projects have been multi-disciplinary so the KTC have been able to bring other people from around the University to the team that I may not have known about or had access to. The KTC have also been able to help me with the whole recruitment process, they have helped me get the right Associate/staff on board, and they’ve also helped me with the accounting process so that I can concentrate on the project and the research side of things. Working with the KTC has also vastly increased my visibility within the University, and in  having done that has helped me with my promotion to Professor and also put me in a position to win the awards I been presented with.

And lastly, why should other Academics consider working with the Knowledge Transfer Centre?

I would strongly encourage other Academics to work with the Knowledge Transfer Centre. The opportunities that can be opened up there are amazing, and once the centre knows you and the areas you’re interested in, you are exposed to so many different avenues for your work to be applied, and again working with them helped with my promotion to Professor and the winning of various awards. The KTC staff are so incredibly supportive and showcase such a huge breadth of knowledge, offering great advice and direction, and nothing is ever too much trouble for them. We’re lucky at Reading to have such an excellent Knowledge Transfer Centre; it’s the best centre in the country.

New Partnership between University of Reading and Red Whale!

In the Knowledge Transfer Centre at the University of Reading, we are continually looking to collaborate with exciting, innovative, local businesses in order to help create a positive global impact. We are therefore extremely delighted to announce our latest Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Red Whale, a company based right alongside us on the UoR campus. Red Whale are one of the leading providers of primary care medical education in the UK who specialise in producing evidence-based courses relevant to everyday practice, full of action points for delegates to take away and implement.
 
The project will see Red Whale working with three departments at the University of Reading; Computer Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, and the Institute of Education, in order to develop  a new medical education delivery method utilising an online platform, all the while meeting Red Whale’s core values of being relevant, challenging and fun.
 
We are extremely excited about our latest KTP and what the future will bring with this exciting partnership.
 
KTP or Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is Europe’s leading programme to help bridge the gap between industry and academia. The initiative helps businesses improve their competitiveness by enabling companies to work with higher education or research and technology organisations to obtain knowledge, technology or skills which they consider to be of strategic competitive importance. The  UK-wide programme is overseen by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, and supported by 16 other public sector funding organisations.
If your business has a product or service that could benefit from a KTP, contact us today to discuss the opportunities available to you in more detail. 

Knowledge Transfer Partnership with local energy monitoring company

At the University of Reading, we’re always excited to work with local companies and to have the opportunity to apply our research in a way which adds real value to the world around us. Accordingly, we’re very pleased to announce our latest Knowledge Transfer Partnership with local energy monitoring company Optimal Monitoring. Optimal Monitoring work with small and medium-sized businesses and organisations to help them better understand their energy consumption and identify ways in which they could reduce their usage, thus reducing their environmental impact and costs.

Our new collaborative Knowledge Transfer Partnership will enable Optimal Monitoring to work with the University to develop an enhanced monitoring system, capable of better identifying unwanted utility usage as well as proposing solutions to exceptional consumption to help with further cost reductions. We’re very much looking forward to working with Optimal Monitoring on this project and are excited to see how the new system will help them add real value for their customers.

KTP or Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is Europe’s leading programme helping businesses to improve their competitiveness by enabling companies to work with higher education or research and technology organisations to obtain knowledge, technology or skills which they consider to be of strategic competitive importance. The  UK-wide programme is overseen by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, and supported by 16 other public sector funding organisations.

 

Yet ANOTHER new member of the KTC family!

We are delighted to announce another new person to join the Knowledge Transfer Centre; Dr Vicki Aldmington. Vicki has a PhD in Fungal genetics and biochemistry from University of St Andrews, and has worked largely in education and outreach in the learned society sector. Most recently Vicki managed FoodWasteNet; a BBSRC Network in Biotechnology and Bioenergy.

Vicki is now our newest Business Relationship Manager and will be jointly responsible for facilitating collaborations between companies and non-profit organisations interested in working with the University of Reading.

We are very excited to experience the expertise Vicki will bring the team, and welcome her to the family!

Another new member of the KTC family!

We are very happy to announce that we have another new team member; Thomas Wildsmith!

Dr Wildsmith gained his Ph.D in materials and inorganic chemistry at the University of Bath, and has since worked for both a large research organisation and a small business where a key role was the development of collaborative research projects.

Thomas has now joined the Knowledge Transfer Centre as a Business Relationship Manager, where his responsibilities will include facilitating collaborations between businesses and organisations interested in working with the University of Reading.

We warmly welcome Thomas, and we’re very excited about the expertise he is bringing to the department!