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SDG9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

SDG9 aims to ‘Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation’. The University’s role in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, and our commitment to supporting industry and innovation are central to our strategic goal and Changemaker Challenge to ‘Contribute to Northamptonshire being the best county in the UK to start and grow a business’. This was recognised in the University being ‘Highly Commended’ at the Midlands Business Awards 2020 in the award category ‘Corporate Commitment to the Community’. We are proud of the work that we do to support this SDG, as we believe that innovation and sustainable growth are central to developing the new solutions to the social and environmental problems of today and tomorrow.

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Social Innovation

Social innovation is fundamental to the University’s strategic vision and runs through everything that we seek to do in research, teaching, community engagement and knowledge exchange. In 2013 the University became the UK’s first Ashoka U Changemaker Campus. As part of this in 2014, the University also established its Institute for Social Innovation and Impact, a global research centre focused on social innovation. The Institute leads work internationally to explore social innovation, including exploring Social Innovation in Higher Education across East and South East Asia for the British Council; creating the Social Innovation Linkages for Knowledge Exchange Network (SILKEN) in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University; as well as carrying out research in Mexico and across Europe. This is complemented by the University’s Centre for Sustainable Business Practices, which focuses on CSR, ESG and business engagement with the SDGs. The CSBP has a wide-variety of expertise including in ethics, cyber security, data analytics and disaster and crisis management. Finally, the University also embeds social innovation/social enterprise into all of its undergraduate degree programmes, as well as having its own MA in Social Innovation.

Industry Engagement

The University’s recently opened Innovation Centre is our key hub for supporting businesses locally, with office space, business support and events held there for a variety of different industry sectors. This, along with our new Development Hub, will act as the hub for our new incubator that is opening in 2021, which will support private and social business start-ups to scale and secure investment. Indeed, the University has invested in a number of different businesses and funds, including Goodwill Solutions CIC, Big Issue Invest’s Corporate Social Venture Fund, and Impact Ventures UK’s Social Impact Fund. The University’s Key Sector Knowledge Transfer Manager Charlotte Patrick who liaises with local business for the University, and leads our UKRI funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership work. Our Inspire2enterprise CIC brand, established in 2012, continues to support social enterprises across the UK through business support, advice, mentoring and signposting to trusted, specialist advice including financial and legal support, with over 2,500 business supported nationally to date. We also support local businesses and graduate-led start-ups through our Enterprise Boost programme. Our work outlined above, alongside our role in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, demonstrate the importance we placed on supporting industry at all levels through our financial and knowledge resources. For more information, see our Support for Business page.

Research & Development

The University recognises that the creation of new knowledge through internationally leading research is critical to ensuring that industry and society can develop and innovate. Our centralised policy towards knowledge exchange and supporting the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) means that we are committed to co-developing these solutions through research partnerships with industry and other key stakeholders. Our Research Strategy is one that is committed to ensuring that our work creates social impact and leads to positive improvements in society, with our mantra of Transforming Lives + Inspiring Change underpinning this. As an example, our Institute for Creative Leather Technologies supports the leather industry in a number of areas, hosting events including the APLF’s Leather Industry Engagement Day. Further, our recently established Waterside Meadows project, funded through a UKRI Active Ageing grant,  seeks to develop an ‘integrated educational psycho-social support model for people with dementia and carers within a ‘village’ community’ through a Living Lab model, which will directly transform research innovations into real-life solutions targeted at enabling healthy ageing and independent living. This will be the first such on-campus Living Lab of its kind focused in this area and will be managed by the University’s newly-created Waterside Institute.

 

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