Tag Archives: exeter

Regional science research collaboration

onyxpic

The other Friday (July 8th) a group of academics and PhD students from our College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences came together with similar groups from the universities of Bath and Bristol, along with industry representatives, to discuss a new partnership and idea that we’ve been considering: a graduate training alliance.

This mixed group of physicists and engineers had two things in common; firstly, a shared interest in physics-based ‘-onics’ – photonics, plasmonics, magnonics, spintronics, electronics, etc (hence the name Onyx), and secondly, a desire to engage more effectively with, and prepare our PhD students more effectively for, business and industry.

We have three aims for our nascent alliance: to bridge the innovation gap between universities and business more effectively in order to benefit the economy, to offer students a richer PhD experience and better preparation for entering the workplace after graduating, and to provide a forum for developing regional research collaborations.

The day was effectively a brainstorming session; after a presentation from Myrddin Jones of the Technology Strategy Board (“Funding for innovation is complex. We need to build a more effective environment for innovation & reduce risk for business in research”) we split into four action groups and discussed the issues and how the Onyx alliance might address them.

Discussion was lively and several important topics were brought up. These ranged from timing issues for PhD students, to confidentiality needs of the industry partners, and the inherently different needs and ideas of universities and industry – for example, PhD students like the idea of two month internships, while business would prefer them to last closer to two years. Likewise industry also wants to recruit students who are broad, flexible, with transferable skills, and who can apply themselves to a range of tasks and areas; PhD-level research necessarily focuses people very tightly – are these incompatible?

Over lunch we had an extended poster session from the PhD students, which enabled a more detailed discussion of the findings presented than is normally the case at workshops. The afternoon saw us delve more deeply into the idea of stakeholder engagement and industry relations, before summing up and deciding what the best way to move forward might be.

With the aim of getting things going as quickly as possible we’re already talking about running a conference event in the Autumn term so we can start to develop just what the Onyx graduate teaching alliance can and should offer.

Most of all we want to see how we can develop added value by bringing the Universities closer, in conjunction with forging stronger, relevant relations with business.

Posted by Professor Bill Barnes (Professor of Photonics, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences)

Exeter-based start-up is Born Global business winner

A business based at the University of Exeter’s Innovation Centre has won the inaugural Born Global business competition, beating 90 other companies from across the South West in a bid to find the best business idea with global potential.

Fantasy Shopper was crowned GWE Business West’s Born Global Business 2011 in front of an audience of 100 leading international business experts, mentors and investment angels.

Chris Prescott and Daniel Noz from Fantasy Shopper won over the competition judges at the grand final with their innovative multi-platform social shopping game. They received a prize of £20,000 in cash plus a range of bespoke PR, investment readiness and export business services.

The duo have been based at Exeter’s Innovation Centre for the past six months and although they are still at pre-launch stage, winning the competition will give a real boost to their ambitions.

“The judges thought that their business idea was extremely innovative with huge global potential,” said Robin Jackson, Exeter’s Innovation Centre Director.

“They were up against some strong competition but were able to demonstrate a strong business plan which is both ambitious and achievable. We are happy to be supporting them on their business journey.”

Born Global 2011 was launched by GWE Business West to find the best new business idea in the South West with the potential to go global. More than 90 applicants pitched propositions in the early stages of the competition at auditions in Bristol, Bath, Exeter and Gloucestershire. 30 applicants were shortlisted from auditions and this number was whittled down to 15 who were invited to re-present at the Grand Final on March 1st.

Posted by Robin Jackson, Director of the Innovation Centre

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

I spent yesterday afternoon (Saturday 5 February) taking in the Chinese New Year celebrations across the city as the year of the rabbit began.

Starting at the Buffet City restaurant at the top of Fore Street, a procession featuring a giant traditional Chinese Dragon and an energetic traditional Chinese Lion, plus dozens of dancers and musicians, worked its way up to Bedford Square in Princesshay, before heading for the recently-completed new Business School building.

At the new Business School building there was an even grander Dragon and Lion dance, plus a wealth of indoor activities (this is the South West, after all, and one needs to plan for inclement weather – which we luckily avoided for the most part!), from Chinese food to face-painting (allegedly for the kids, but I saw some suspiciously older-looking painted faces), plus origami, Tai Chi, Chinese knots, Chinese tea-making, and much, much more. The day was rounded off with a spectacular fireworks display and a Chinese variety performance at the Northcott Theatre.

Professor Neil Armstrong, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International), gave a short address highlighting the increasing importance of Exeter’s Chinese community to both the city and the University. It’s worth noting that the entire event was presented by the Chinese Student Scholars Associations (CSSA), whose volunteers did everything from the impressive Dragon and Lion dancing to manning stalls, ushering the audience, painting faces, and, well, everything else.

A big audience in the city centre swelled through the afternoon to become several hundred strong by the main procession outside the new Business School building (the whole of the new plaza area between Streatham Court and XFI was thronged with people, and the inside activities were very busy at the same time), and included students both international and domestic, and University staff and their families. People directly connected with the University through work or study were far outnumbered, though, by members of the local community; a heartening sight which really reinforced the things Professor Armstrong had said about the value our Chinese students bring to the wider city as well as the University itself.

I can’t praise the enthusiasm, friendliness, and energy of our Chinese student community enough. My friends and I had a great day, thanks entirely to their efforts, and I’d thoroughly recommend going along next year if you can; I know I will be (for the pork dumplings as much as the Dragon and Lion dancing!).

Check out pictures from the day in this Flickr group that anyone can add to.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Posted by Nick Southall (Web Team)