The Vice-Chancellor's Awards 2022

for Research Impact and Engagement

man and woman laughing while sitting in front of laptops

University Students Walking to Class. SolStock / E+ via Getty Images

University Students Walking to Class. SolStock / E+ via Getty Images

Established Academic Award

Dr Jenny Molloy

Winner: Dr Jenny Molloy, Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

The Open Enzyme Collection: towards equitable and inclusive global biomanufacturing using synthetic biology

The Open Enzyme Collection is an open source library of DNA for manufacturing critical reagents for biological research and molecular diagnostics. It has now been distributed to over 500 labs in over 50 countries, where it is enabling synthetic biology education, diagnostics innovation and local manufacturing projects that aim to expand access to biotechnology as a tool for sustainable development. It catalysed a non-profit spin-off, Beneficial Bio, which is supporting entrepreneurs in six countries across Africa and Latin America to address reagent supply chain challenges and establish bioinnovation hubs that are engaging local academics, government and private sector partners.

Runners up:

Professor Khaled Soufani

Professor Khaled Soufani, Cambridge Judge Business School, School of Technology

The Circular Economy: developing environmentally, economically and financially sustainable business models

Prof Soufani is Management Practice Professor of Financial Economics and Policy, and Director of the Circular Economy Centre at Cambridge Judge Business School. Prof Soufani’s research focuses on circular economy, which presents an alternative to our linear economy that has nurtured consumerism and single use lifestyles. Through partnerships and collaborations Prof Soufani works with local and European organisations to turn theory into sustainable practice. Projects include developing an innovative framework of interplay between the circular economy and the Internet of Things, and leading research analysing plastic flows through the UK economy to improve the recovery of plastics.

From the judges:

“Strong evidence of impact and unique contribution. I appreciate the value of this project very much.” 

Runners up:

Dr Jodi Gardner

Dr Jodi Gardner, Faculty of Law, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Understanding Credit and the Cost-of-Living Crisis

Jodi Gardner is a private law researcher looking at the intersection between law and social welfare. Her research has recently looked at the cost-of-living crisis and the impact that this has had on access to high-cost credit. Jodi focuses on the law and ‘lived experience’, considering the effect of legal regulation on the lives of everyday people – particularly those who are already vulnerable. This has become increasingly important due to the impact of Covid-19 and now the cost-of-living crisis, which is pushing more people into poverty and financial exclusion.

From the judges:

“This application addresses contemporary issues of debt recovery exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic and fuel cost crisis, developing awareness in legal circles and amongst the general public. Engagement with students has enabled University expertise to be directed to positive societal outcomes.”

Early career researcher

Charles Agbor Emogor

Winner: Charles Agbor Emogor, Department of Zoology, School of Biological Sciences

Mobilising public and institutional support for pangolin conservation

Charles is a Nigerian zoologist and founder of Pangolino, a non-profit mobilising public and institutional support for pangolins, the world’s most trafficked wild mammal. Charles transforms research into useful tools to curb pangolin poaching and trafficking. He works with hunters around pangolin habitats to better understand the dynamics of pangolin threats. He engages over 200 students and 1000 adults across six communities in southeast Nigeria who are learning how to contribute to saving pangolins from extinction. Pangolino hosts the world’s only pangolin scale converter, where stakeholders can obtain estimates of the number of pangolins involved in the illegal pangolin trade.

Runners up:

Dr Ems Lords

Dr Ems Lords, NRICH, Faculty of Mathematics, School of Physical Sciences

Going Deeper in the Primary Maths Classroom

'Going Deeper in Primary Maths' supports non-specialist primary teachers to deliver high quality, challenging problem-solving activity. Pre-pandemic, educators were reporting a dearth of problem-solving in schools and the situation rapidly worsened post-pandemic. Working with teachers in Tower Hamlets, 'Going Deeper' identified key teaching approaches that have already been downloaded by almost four thousand primary teachers since their publication on University's flagship NRICH website. The research also informed the contents of a hugely successful NRICH webinar which was attended by over one hundred primary teachers. Feedback included 'The examples were really good approaches to problem-solving, but the subtext was for teachers to examine their own thinking which is fabulous for reflecting on your pedagogy- terrific!!'

From the judges: 

“Evidence of direct impact and benefit for the teaching profession is very well evidenced as is the need and the very high quality of engagement.”

Runners up:

Dr Sophia Cooke

Dr Sophia Cooke, Department of Geography, Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences

Co-Galapagos: catalysing community action for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development

Co-Galapagos is an initiative launched by Dr Cooke (King's College, Cambridge) and Galapagos-based NGO FUNCAVID, in partnership with the Galapagos Conservation Trust. It promotes collaboration, cooperation and coordination to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in Galapagos. The initiative is a direct output of a piece of participatory research co-led by Dr Cooke in 2021 to prioritise and contextualise 40 of the SDG Targets for Galapagos. Having produced these priorities, the team wished to ensure impact of this research and so established Co-Galapagos to support researchers, policy-makers and the community to drive progress toward the 40 Targets.

From the judges:

“This is an impressive application outlining an excellent initiative that even in its early stages is creating significant impact.”

Collaboration Award

Professor Stefan Scholtes

Professor Stefan Scholtes, The Cambridge Centre for Health Leadership and Enterprise, Judge Business School, School of Technology

Rapid COVID-19 Modelling Support for Regional Health Systems in England

The Cambridge Centre for Health Leadership & Enterprise (CCHLE) is based in the Cambridge Judge Business School. CCHLE played a pivotal part in enabling evidence-informed healthcare decision making during the COVID-19 crisis through their work in partnership with Public Health England (PHE) and the NHS in the East of England. CCHLE provided modelling and forecasts based on complex and rapidly developing data on regional COVID-19 cases and hospital bed usage, which enabled PHE to effectively manage regional healthcare operations and make decisions based on evidence-based scenario generation to save lives.

Runners up:

Dr Lara Mani

Dr Lara Mani, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, School of Arts and Humanities

La Soufrière, St Vincent explosive volcanic eruption: Evaluation of public crisis communications

Lara Mani, Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, worked closely with the Seismic Research Centre (SRC) at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago to undertake a large-scale evaluation of the crisis communications campaign conducted by SRC during the explosive volcanic eruption of La Soufriere volcano, St Vincent in 2021. The aim was to understand how effective the crisis communication campaign had been in terms of accessibility, equality and ease of understanding and to identify gaps in the approach to allow improvements to be made before future crisis campaigns.

From the judges:

“This is an outstanding project with obvious significance and tangible impacts with intensive collaborative work between local policymakers, stakeholders and communities. I was particularly impressed with the 'learning by doing' element of the project enabling local communities to train as researchers and consequently building local capacity for future challenges.”

Runners up:

Professor Tony Kouzarides

Professor Tony Kouzarides, Milner Therapeutics Institute, School of Biological Science

Impact through partnership: combining the strengths of academia and business to accelerate the path from discovery to therapy

Lives can be transformed when the strength of academia and business combine. We have created an innovative model to drive cross-sector collaboration, including a physical Institute where pharma, start-up companies and academics work side by side to bring discoveries to life. Key achievements include:
- 37 academic-industry projects, totalling £10.4M investment. This includes collaborations with the 11 pharma partners in the Milner Therapeutic Consortium – the largest of its kind globally working across multiple disease areas.
- Creation of the Frame Shift bio-incubator, providing space and support for start-up companies. 12 companies so far have raised £25M and created 55 jobs.

From the judges:

“An impressive set of collaborative endeavours which have led to a wide range of impacts, particularly focussing on commercial and industrial impacts. Using challenge-led approaches ensures maximum benefit for stakeholders and using early collaborative processes to ensure stakeholder engagement has been key to the success of this project.”

Runners up:

Dr Johannes Lenhard

Dr Johannes Lenhard, Max Planck Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change, Department of Social Anthropology, School of Arts and Humanities

Cambridge Homelessness Impact and Research Network - Making research count for people experiencing homelessness

CHIRN (Cambridge Homelessness Impact and Research Network) is a network between Cambridge academics, homeless service providers and policy makers focused on delivering better support for people experiencing homelessness. To date, we have answered questions from policy makers and service providers. We were the group to assess the benefits of the first modular homes for people experiencing homelessness nation-wide (now adopted by multiple councils across England) and received CAPE funding to continue this work. We also conduct ethnography during Covid with people experiencing homelessness generating unique insights on marginalisations of women and people who use drugs (see our BMJ MH article). We are also currently mapping the healthcare pathway for people experiencing homelessness in Cambridge to improve access to adequate care in the long run.

From the judges:

“This is an impressive example of collaborative working at its best - involving partners from a range of disciplines both within the university and externally. Crucially the project has actively engaged with homeless communities and key agencies and professionals working to support them which has resulted in co-produced research design and methodologies.”

Professional Services Award

Dr Marla Fuchs

Winner: Dr Marla Fuchs, Department of Plant Sciences, School of Biological Sciences

TIGR2ESS (Transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies): UK-India Collaboration is Driving High-level Policy Engagement and Positive Outcomes for Rural Communities in India

Marla Fuchs is the Chief Operating Officer for TIGR2ESS, a £7.8M collaborative research programme. She has worked to facilitate collaboration among the 20 independent international organisations, support over 30 post-doctoral researchers and coordinate 15 academic leads in the pursuit of finding sustainable ways forward for agriculture in India through academic exchanges, engagement with rural communities, female empowerment and translation into policy. The programme has shaped policy to support smallholder farmers and agribusinesses, supporting 2 million farmers to access markets in Punjab, saved 58 billion litres of water through more efficient irrigation practices, and facilitated ECR capacity building activities.

Runner up:

Rebecca Leam
Owen Garling

Rebecca Leam and Owen Garling, Bennett Institute for Public Policy, Department of Politics and International Studies, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Levelling Up

The ‘levelling up’ agenda has been a ubiquitous part of the national policy conversation for three years. But what does it actually mean in practice? The foundations and scope of levelling up have been scrutinised by the Bennett Institute for Public Policy over the last 18 months. The rigour, depth and breadth of that engagement was reflected in the Institute’s work being cited four times in the Levelling Up White Paper itself. The Bennett Institute’s Knowledge Transfer Facilitator and Communications Coordinator have curated an extraordinarily impactful series of 41 blogs, drawing in authors from across Cambridge and the UK.

From the judges:

“Work has been clearly influential on the national levelling up agenda, having utilised a variety of knowledge exchange and engagement techniques. Using a variety of broadcast dissemination techniques the project has been able to utilise momentum to create more in-depth and collaborative partnerships and work together with a variety of stakeholders to ensure the mobilisation of knowledge.”