Innovator of the Year 2015

Following the success of the ‘Innovator of the Year’ competition in recent years, I’d like to invite submissions for a similar prize this year.   As a reminder, the prize has been  awarded in previous years to the investigator who, in the opinion of the awards committee, has generated the most innovative research contribution (pure, applied or pedagogical) during the last academic year (2014-15 for the current round). Applications from groups of researchers are welcome, but must nominate a lead Principal Investigator (PI).

Again this year, we plan to offer a prize of £5,000 in each of two categories. The first category will comprise pure and applied research, and the second will comprise pedagogical research. This categorisation is not intended to imply that these activities are necessarily distinct, but nonetheless there is a concern that those engaged principally in pedagogical research are discouraged from applying.

In order to qualify, evidence must be provided that the innovative step was realised during the academic year in question. This may take the form of a patent application, research output, evidence of a novel teaching programme, or similar (at the discretion of the applicant) – such evidence must be appended to the application. Only one application will be entertained from each PI, except when she or he is named on a group submission, in which case one additional submission will be permitted.

Applications should be in the following format:

(a)          Importance of the research (100 words)

(b)          Brief description of the work leading up to the research (100 words)

(c)           The innovative step (200 words)

(d)          Impact or potential impact of the research (100 words)

(Word limits are indicatory but the total submission should not exceed 500 words)

The closing date for applications will be  Friday 31st July 2015 and the winning submission will be announced at the start of the academic session 2015-2016. The prize funds (£5000 for each category) will be transferred into a nominated university account, to be used to support the research programme of the successful applicant, at their discretion. Where the winning submission derives from a group of researchers, the lead PI will decide the appropriate split of funds.

Applications should be sent by e-mail to Barbara Graham (barbara.graham@ncl.ac.uk) by the closing date.

The awards committee will comprise PVC SAgE together with the Deans of Research & Innovation, Undergraduate Studies, Postgraduate Studies. The decision of the awards committee will be final.

The concept of innovation is particularly poignant this year, given that there is likely to be increased focus on the impact of our research. There is adequate evidence to support the notion that innovation forms the bedrock of impact. The latest issue of the THE has several articles concerning innovation, and draws attention to the report, ‘Lagging Behind: Are UK Universities Falling Behind in the Global Innovation Race?’. You can read that report here. Fifty Vice-Chancellors took part in a survey, and their responses contributed to the report. The report is uncomfortable reading – Universities are regarded as conservative places, where driving innovation is difficult. This is worrying, as innovation is likely to be essential for survival, a concept that is well understood in the private sector.

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About stevehomans

Professor Steve Homans is a structural biologist with an international reputation in the study of biomolecular interactions. He obtained his first degree and DPhil in Biochemistry at Oxford University, and secured his first academic position as Lecturer at the University of Dundee. In 1998 he received the Zeneca award from the Biochemical Society and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Prior to his current appointment he was Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds. Professor Homans brings extensive expertise of academic leadership and management, with a particular emphasis on organisational change.
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