The Awards ceremony was held in the Great Hall

First Exeter Impact Awards – winners announced

Two alumni featured among the winners of the inaugural University of Exeter Impact Awards.

The University was delighted to welcome Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) as the guest of honour at the event, which was also attended by the Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Steve Smith along with 300 other guests.

Nine alumni joined the panel of judges to choose the winners.
Professor Nick Talbot, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Knowledge Transfer) who hosted the evening commented ‘Our intention in running these Awards was to provide a great opportunity to showcase research which is having an impact, not only for the University community, but more importantly to all of our collaborators who work with us on research projects across the globe. Projects were judged based on the quality of the research, their innovation, partnership working, and on their reach, significance and associated wider impact. We wanted to bring together the University's partners from across the diverse sectors we work in and highlight some particular successes which many of them have been involved in’.

The winners of each category are as follows:-

Student Impact Award 

The winner is The Heart of Borneo Project
In 2010 students (now alumni) Martin Holland and Tim van Berkel organised and led an 18-strong expedition to Borneo to document the flora and fauna of Bukit Batikap Nature Reserve, one of the most remote, biodiverse and threatened rainforests on earth. The quality of the scientific research and pioneering use of interactive communications brought numerous awards, extensive media coverage, and the accolade of ‘Expedition of the Year’. The expedition’s work continues through the Heart of Borneo Project, a UK charity focusing on the processes that regulate biodiversity, and empowering local communities to achieve sustainability and conserve biodiversity in their fragile environment.

Outstanding Social & Cultural Impact

The winner is Let’s talk about sex and history
Dr Kate Fisher (History) and Dr Rebecca Langlands (Classics and Ancient History) have worked with the Royal Cornwall Museum, Royal Albert Memorial Museum and many others to establish a novel project which uses research on past sexual practices to stimulate sex education discussion among many thousands of people across the region. The research has also led to a trial project entitled ‘Talking Sex’ which is being used in 40 schools throughout the region.

Outstanding Impact in Commerce & Industry

The winner is Winds of change: insurance risk pricing for clusters of natural catastrophes
Professor David Stephenson (Mathematics and Computer Science), a Joint Met Office chair at the University, has worked with his team to revolutionise an area of the insurance industry. His partnership with Willis Re, a leading insurance provider, has enabled the world’s largest partnership between academia and the insurance industry.

Outstanding International Impact

The winner is Transforming the lives of children born with diabetes
Professor Andrew Hattersley (Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry) and Sian Ellard (Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry) and their team of researchers have reformed international guidelines on diabetes and significantly affected the lives of patients in over 60 countries. Through employing state-of-the-art techniques, they have enabled thousands of diabetes patients to switch from insulin injections to tablets, which is an incredibly life changing result.

Outstanding Regional Impact

The winner is Uncharted waters: leading the world in marine renewable energy

Led by Professor George Smith (Camborne School of Mines), this project has helped ensure that the South West is a real contender in the emerging marine renewables technology market. Particular contributions to Wave Hub have enabled significant technological advances in a globally important sector. The work of this winner is helping not only to push the South West forward as a specialist in this area, but is also leading the way in an area of research which could be critical to our future on a global scale. The panel recognised how important the research being undertaken could be for the region and how this could go on to have significant further impact.

Outstanding Impact in Public Policy & Services

The winner is Cleaning up our act: the hormonal impact of chemical discharges on fish
The work of Professor Charles Tyler (Biosciences) and his team has been truly groundbreaking and is helping to clean up rivers around the world in partnership with AstraZeneca. His team have revised many policy guidelines, and their work will continue to deliver impact following the opening of a new multi-million pound Aquatic Resource Centre joint funded by the Wolfson Foundation. The discoveries forged by this team have led to an exceptionally strong industrial partnership and major investment.

The Bright Future Award

The winner is Shedding new light on dementia
Dr David Llewellyn’s (Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry) work on the link between vitamin D and dementia could prove to be ground-breaking. An international partnership with the US Alzheimer’s Association, where Alzheimer's is the sixth highest cause of death, has helped uncover a potential method for protecting against the disease which people are exposed to daily.

Sir Steve commented, "Not only was the evening a great success but the overall objective of celebrating and recognising truly world-class research was also achieved. Congratulations to the winners who all thoroughly deserve their trophy."

Steve Hindley, Chairman of Midas Group concluded: “We were extremely pleased to be able to work with the University on this initiative and would like to add our tribute to the winners and all the finalists for their outstanding research projects. It was definitely a night to remember.”

For further details of the winners and to view photos of the evening please visit the Impact Awards website.

Date: 8 December 2011

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