Head of Commercialisation talks Innovation at Salford #REF2021

Categories: Research

To mark REF2021 we are taking a look at the key role Innovation plays in the University of Salford’s overall approach to Research and Enterprise.

Salford’s research creates new and innovative technologies, designs, products and ideas that can potentially be commercialised. Each innovation is unique, so we draw on internal and external commercial experience and business knowledge in order to work with partners to structure the right licensing deal.

In some cases, we take our innovations to the market through the creation of a spin off company. We are also able to help our industrial partners to find solutions to specific business problems through our close relationships with the university’s research base. 

We spoke to the Head of Commercialisation at the University of Salford, Paul Cihlar, to tell us more about his role, the importance of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) and the unique offer we can make to businesses.

Partnering with industry is key to everything we do. What do you think we offer businesses from an innovation and enterprise perspective?

The University of Salford was borne out of a desire from industry to see research applied. As such, working with businesses is in our DNA. What industry really needs from universities is a useful and quick response to their needs.

I think it’s our ‘can do’ attitude and desire to make collaboration work that sets us apart – this is invaluable for any prospective industry partner. I am proud we can provide businesses a well-managed and structured way of delivering strategic and operational projects, in turn realising a return on investment for our partners.

Within our current Knowledge Transfer portfolio, we have projects ranging from data science to health science, from investigating bee diseases to studying airborne and structural noise. All our projects cover a very wide range of industries, from SMEs to global brands.

Talk us through some key areas of innovation at Salford

All our researchers are excellent when it comes to working with external partners. Many times, our projects are geared towards wider public benefit, as opposed to commercial impact.

I think something we are really good at is collaborative Research & Development, either through KTPs or our own Industrial PhD. We have over 30 of these types of collaborative projects in total – along with bringing in industry and grant funding, they are critically important in helping us to demonstrate impact.

Key areas of specialism for these projects include Acoustics, Data Science, Energy (seen through our Energy House 2 development) and Health Sciences. We are on an upward trajectory in terms of innovation, so I’m expecting our breadth of expertise to continue to grow.

Part of your role involves driving our KTP provision. What role can universities play in bringing about real-life innovation and transformative change?

KTP has been working for UK businesses and universities over the last forty-five years and is one of the UK government’s most successful knowledge transfer programmes. Interestingly, Salford has been involved in KTP since its initial launch, as Teaching Company Scheme (TCS) in 1975, being the the first University to pilot the scheme.

Every KTP brings about innovation and transformative change. The reason that KTP is so successful is the structure and management of the scheme. This structure allows the academic team and the company to concentrate on delivering the project through genuine collaboration.

Can you tell us about Salford’s role in the Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry and Greater Manchester AI Foundry?

The Foundries consists of four universities (The University of Salford, Lancaster University, The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University) supporting Greater Manchester SMEs to innovate and grow by connecting them with cutting edge AI and Cyber research and knowledge.

The project draws on partners’ existing technical expertise to support SMEs in the region to become innovation-ready and to utilise new technologies to develop new products and services. Collaboration has been a key factor in its success, and it has led to live student projects being undertaken, along with potential KTPs in the pipeline.

Will the REF 2021 have a big impact in your area?

Huge. We have had such strong results at Salford, and I’m convinced we’ll continue to grow each REF cycle. A lot of companies will fully understand what REF means for us and them, and for those that don’t it’s a great way of showing the impact of our research.

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