Workshop series brings together African researchers, businesses and policy makers to explore how knowledge exchange could help provide safe, sustainable water
Lancaster University staff delivered the first of five week-long Knowledge Exchange workshops, to initiate the start of the £7M RECIRCULATE project, supported by the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.
RECIRCULATE aims to build capacity within Africa to carry out and translate high quality research into the new products, processes and services needed to solve the continent’s water crisis.
The project will facilitate leading African research and training institutions to work with local businesses, communities and policy makers across a continent where half the population - 800 million people - live without adequate water.
This first workshop, held at Lancaster University’s Ghana campus in Accra, covered motivations and mechanisms for knowledge exchange and engagement. It brought together nine research organisations from six African countries plus a dozen community representatives from a wide range of sectors including finance, media, government, NGOs and industry.
It was the first time the different groups had been in a room together to share challenges and create new opportunities for collaboration.
“The RECIRCULATE Knowledge Exchange workshop showed me that we do not need to understand everything to make the first step. The sessions were very, very interactive. I have never been in a workshop like that!” noted William Oduro, from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Ghana.
A central feature of RECIRCULATE is its interdisciplinary approach: the workshop series is hosted by academics from management, social sciences, environmental science, crop science, engineering and microbiology.
Ernie Wulff, a lecturer at Lancaster University Ghana, said “The RECIRCULATE training sessions have really deepened my knowledge on the benefits of inter-disciplinary research and the immense potential for collaborative research on the African continent. As a researcher, I think knowledge exchange through collaborative research is the way-forward in designing solutions for Africa’s challenges.”
Lancaster University has a nationally leading record of building strong links with the wider community and the business sector and of creating knowledge exchange networks.
“We are confident that this is a model that will yield rapid, meaningful developments in Africa,” said Professor Nigel Paul, RECIRCULATE Director.
“Through the Lancaster University Management School and our award-winning Centre for Global Eco-Innovation we have extensive experience of the benefits of building strong links between international quality research and businesses, and other partners, who are best-placed to deliver real-world solutions and drive growth.”
Dr Ruth Alcock, Head of Business Partnerships & Enterprise in the Lancaster Environment Centre said: “Participants and training staff left the Workshop with tremendous energy, a new network of pan-african collaborators and the tools and mechanisms they need to start their knowledge exchange journeys. The learning from Lancaster’s approach to knowledge exchange and partnerships already feels as though it’s making an impact”
Helen Fogg, Head of Business Engagement in the Lancaster University Management School said: “The workshop was inspiring and we now look forward to inviting African colleagues to Lancaster. Residences at Lancaster University for participant ‘Recirculaters’ will provide an opportunity to identify new collaborative models to enhance research, the student experience and funding prospects and time to develop strategic action plans to implement change at an individual and institutional level and foster new collaborations.”
There are four more RECIRCULATE Workshops being hosted at Lancaster University Ghana during January and February. They cover:
- Resource Recovery from Waste for Health, Energy and Agriculture, run by Professors Kirk Semple and Alastair Martin
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship, led by Professors Nigel Lockett and Sarah Jack
- Water for Food Production, led by Professors Ian Dodd and Mariana Rufino
- Health and Sanitation, led by Dr Manoj Roy and Professor Roger Pickup
Partners in Phase 1 of ‘RECIRCULATE: Driving eco-innovation in Africa: capacity-building for a safe circular water economy’ include the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Ghana, the University of Benin in Nigeria and LU Ghana.