Dr Eve Forrest, Impact Officer in the HaSS Faculty at Newcastle University, discusses the most recent training programme funded by the ESRC and EPSRC IAA to help bring together early stage researchers around the wider potential impact of their projects
July 2019 saw the last session of Action for Impact (AfI), a co-produced interdisciplinary training programme for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) and PhD students across the Social Sciences and Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects. The AfI project began as a novel way to enable and establish new informal networks and promote early stage collaborations between different subject areas. Colleagues in Newcastle Career and Enterprise services, along with EPSRC/ESRC IAA teams in Newcastle and Durham Universities developed an innovation and enterprise programme aimed at creating impact from all kinds of research. Whether that was building AI health interventions, or helping VCSE partners in reaching new audiences. AfI is the first time that an impact-driven, cross-disciplinary training initiative between the two Universities had taken place and it worked really successfully to bring new researchers together in teams or just meet to discuss their work.
The three day residential/non-residential programmes focused on developing researcher attitudes and behaviours regardless of the kind of research they conducted. Course content was designed to provide scope for development of existing or new ideas in a multi-disciplinary environment too, to help inspire potential ideas in the future. Participants were set provocations and real-world problems by local businesses to test their creative approaches and problem-solving abilities. World class facilitators, trainers and experts in the field of innovation development worked alongside the Enterprise Team specialists to provide bespoke, innovative training methods to enable delegates to complete the training with a clear, agreed action plan for their own work.
The legacy of the AfI programme will still be ongoing for a while, however the training upskilled a total of 56 ECRs and PhD students helping develop their joint impact strategies, group working and realizing the social, commercial and enterprise opportunities of their research in future. The AfI programme was also shortlisted for a 2019 Educate North award for Innovation and two of the cohort alumni have already gone on to win categories in the Newcastle University Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Awards 2019. Who knows what might happen next!