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University departments rewarded for commitment to social and economic impact

25 March 2011

BBSRC has awarded prizes for 'Excellence with Impact' to four university departments. The winners and runners up were announced at a business networking event in London with a speech and prize giving by Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said "Bioscience is a key growth sector, which is why we announced a £70 million investment in BBSRC research campuses in Norwich and Cambridge in the Budget. These awards recognise the impact of bioscience both on the economy and society, through driving innovation, training highly-skilled people, improving businesses and public services and attracting foreign investment."

The winners and runners up are:

Greatest culture change

  • Winner - University of Aberystwyth IBERS
  • Runner up - University of Liverpool School of Biological Sciences

Greatest delivery of impact

  • Winner - University of Dundee College of Life Sciences
  • Runner up - Newcastle University Institute for Ageing and Health

Dr Celia Caulcott, Director of Innovation and Skills, BBSRC said "We would like to congratulate the four prize-winning departments and also acknowledge the effort, enthusiasm and achievement of all 20 that participated.

"This has been a two year process and during that time we have seen not just some extraordinary work and outstanding innovation, but also a major shift in how the importance of the wider impact of research is appreciated by staff and students in the participating departments. We have also gained an invaluable insight into the types of activities that are being used across our community to help ensure the widest possible impacts from the research that BBSRC funds."

The winning departments each receive £150,000 and each runner up department receives £25,000. This money will be reinvested to support their impact activities. This may include sharing best practice, facilitating collaboration with end-users, and providing training in relevant skills.

All 20 departments taking part in the Excellence with Impact competition have worked with BBSRC over two years, producing interim and final reports on their activities, achievements and successes. During this time BBSRC staff have visited each department to discuss the work they have been doing around impact, and to advise on the funding opportunities available from BBSRC to help scientists explore the potential for social and economic impact from their research.

The 20 departments were judged by a broad panel of experts. Each department hosted a judging visit at which the judges were able to hear about the impacts that had been achieved, and how the department was seeking to change the culture around the importance of the wider impact of research.

About the prize winners

University of Aberystwyth IBERS - Winner, greatest culture change
This department demonstrated a real and tangible change in the way its staff viewed the wider impact of their research. This was driven by a clear strategic vision and ambition that embraced not just economic impact, but also social impact. The judges felt that this wider perspective had been fostered throughout the competition, and was now widely apparent and embedded. The decision of the judges recognises an impressive achievement of culture change.

University of Dundee College of Life Sciences - Winner, greatest delivery of impact
This department was felt by the judges to have achieved an extraordinary range of significant impacts from their research. The department's research had led to wide ranging and tangible achievements of both social and economic benefit. It had an impressive number of staff engaged in enterprise activities, and had clearly understood how to incentivise, recognise and reward staff for their impact activities.

University of Liverpool School of Biological Sciences - Runner-up, greatest culture change
This department impressed the judges with a culture change that was driven as much by the strong vision and commitment from senior staff as by the clear emphasis on recognising the contributions that can be made by more junior researchers. The department had recognised the need to coordinate impact activities, had set in place systems to record and assess impact.

Newcastle University Institute for Ageing and Health - Runner up, greatest delivery of impact
This department impressed the judges with the wide departmental involvement in impact activities at local, regional and national level. The department demonstrated a clear understanding that impact is not just one-way, and had impressive activities to involve the public to inform and shape research.



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About BBSRC Impact Awards

Innovator of the Year and the Excellence with Impact award recognise individual and institutional commitment to realising the social and economic potential of excellent research.

Innovator of the Year has been awarded twice previously, in 2009 and 2010. Prize money in 2011 totals £20,000 with two category winners receiving £5,000 and one category winner who is also awarded the title of Innovator of the Year receiving £10,000. The award is to be spent at the winners discretion to support their research, training or other activities promoting economic or social impact, providing it falls within BBSRC's sphere of interest.

The Excellence with Impact award competition began in December 2008 and ran over a two year period. On 24 March 2011 BBSRC will award a total of £300,000 to the bioscience departments that are embedding a culture that recognises the importance of deriving economic and social impact from excellent research. One award will go to the department that has been most effective in introducing a significant culture change, which values impact as well as research excellence and the other will go to the department that can best demonstrate the achievement of economic and social impact from its research. A further £50,000 of prizes will be available for runners up in these two categories.


BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £470M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

  • The Babraham Institute
  • Institute for Animal Health
  • Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Aberystwyth University)
  • Institute of Food Research
  • John Innes Centre
  • The Genome Analysis Centre
  • The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
  • Rothamsted Research

The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.