15 May 2013 15:49

A project revealing the social and emotional impact of flooding and an entrepreneurship unit providing business development programmes for SMEs earned Lancaster University recognition in a top research council award.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has rewarded researchers for their outstanding economic and social impact in the first ‘Celebrating Impact’ prize.

The Hull Floods Project Team, which was led by Dr Will Medd, received an award for Outstanding Impact in Public Policy, which was collected on the night by Dr Rebecca Whittle, Dr Marion Walker, Dr Hugh Deeming and Dr Maggie Mort.

Professor Mary Rose, Dr Eleanor Hamilton and their team at Lancaster University Management School received an award for Outstanding Impact on Business.

Both teams received £5,000 to invest in impact activities.

The applications were judged by a panel of experts from business, academia and the public sector. Shortlisted entrants then had to make a presentation.

The results were announced at the awards ceremony held at Church House in Westminster on 14 May by BBC broadcaster and former economics editor Evan Davis.

The public policy prize team’s research project examined the aftermath of flooding in Hull. The team has transformed policymakers’ understanding and management of the human impacts of flood recovery.

Using methods inspired by a study of community recovery from the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease disaster, led by Maggie Mort, the team organised 45 community diarists and regular community meetings to record the long-term recovery process, which many people felt was more traumatic than the flood itself. This was supplemented by a ‘sister’ project which explored children and young people’s recovery from the floods.

The team liaised at Cabinet-level and inspired a lasting collaboration between the diarists, politicians and stakeholders to inform policy going forwards. They also produced training materials to improve understanding of the recovery process.

Dr Will Medd, who led the projects, said: “This was a fantastic team effort which shows what can be done when researchers are enabled to work collaboratively and creatively with stakeholders and the public. As a team, we believe passionately that research is a collective endeavour and it’s great to see the ESRC supporting this approach to impact.”

The wider project team comprised: Maggie Mort, Gordon Walker, Nigel Watson and Elham Kashefi (Lancaster University), Clare Twigger-Ross (Collingwood Environmental Planning), Sue Tapsell (Middlesex University), Jo Moran-Ellis and Kate Burningham (University of Surrey).

Professor Mary Rose and Dr Eleanor Hamilton set up the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (IEED)to establish productive knowledge-exchange relationships with small and medium-sized enterprises.

To enhance business engagement they and their team developed the Leading Enterprise and Development Programme (LEAD), a business and personal development programme for SME owner-managers, now expanded to other regions of the UK.

70 per cent of LEAD participants report a subsequent increase in profits and 65 per cent report increases in productivity. Conservative estimates suggest LEAD companies employ an additional 3,315 staff each year.

The IEED team also introduced a related Entrepreneurs-in-Residence scheme, where entrepreneurs can offer their expertise to other developing businesses, as well as mentoring undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Co-applicants for the award were Ian Gordon and Mike Parsons, both entrepreneurs who work with the IEED.

Dr Eleanor Hamilton said: "It is extremely gratifying to have had our work here in the Institute recognised by the ESRC in this way. Our objective has always been to help small businesses develop by learning from one another and from our research. What we learn from the businesses in the process informs our teaching of undergraduate and Masters students, the next generation of entrepreneurs, so the benefits are truly two-way."

• The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize is a new, annual opportunity to recognise and reward the successes of ESRC-funded researchers. The prize celebrates outstanding ESRC research and success in collaborative working, partnerships, engagement and knowledge exchange activities that have led to significant impact.