Engaging with the Innovation Agendas of Research Councils, Industry, and Government
The Open University’s Department of Physical Sciences has several research groups: Centre for Electronic Imaging (CEI), Cold Atoms Group, Cosmochemistry Research Group (CRG), Exoplanets Group, and the Planetary Surfaces and Atmospheres Group (GASP), and their research programmes have developed a range of innovative technologies and capabilities. The Department decided to increase its funding from STFC, Industry, other Research Councils, and government innovation organisations such as Innovate UK, in order to exploit these technologies more widely. To achieve this, however, the Department needed to understand how its expertise and capabilities mapped to the innovation agendas of these organisations, what value it provided, which sectors and organisations it should focus on, and the best strategies for successful funding applications and industrial engagement. After exploratory discussions, Qi3 was selected to undertake the project and provide strategic and tactical recommendations. Qi3 split the project into a number of steps:
- Qi3 first surveyed the technology capabilities and applications of the Department and grouped them into packages with engagement potential. The analysis showed that the Department had world leading capabilities in remote sensing and point-of-interest sensing in challenging, hostile, remote, and field applications.
- Telephone interviews were then held with several Key Opinion Leaders to discuss these capabilities and a compelling value proposition was identified, based around the Department’s expertise in miniaturisation, robustness, and portability of sensors & instrumentation systems that can operate remotely, unattended, and autonomously.
- Qi3 then mapped the innovation priorities for the target funding organisations in order to understand which sectors and themes have the strongest drivers to engage with, support, and adopt innovation. These were compared with the Departments strengths and value proposition in order to create a ranking and priority list of funding programmes and commercial sectors on which to focus.
- A set of strategy recommendations and tactical actions were drawn up to help the department develop a focused engagement plan for obtaining funding to more widely exploit its technologies and capabilities. These were discussed in detail with faculty management and stakeholders to speed dissemination and adoption of the recommendations.
- Finally, Qi3 used the outputs of the project to guide the Department in running two industry engagement events, on Healthcare and Environment, which each engaged approximately 15 companies in discussions on potential collaboration with the University.
“Qi3 rapidly grasped the breadth and depth of the Department’s expertise and capabilities. Their analytical approach enabled us to clearly understand the’ value proposition’ that the department has to offer and the funding sources we should target to support the wider exploitation of our capabilities. Qi3’s recommendations will be invaluable as we take this programme forward.