26 March 2018

On Thursday 29 March 2018, Richard Harrington MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy, formally launched the Hertfordshire Science Partnership at the University of Hertfordshire.

The Hertfordshire Science Partnership (HSP) is an innovative collaboration between the University of Hertfordshire and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). It leverages state-of-the-art science facilities and academic expertise, at the University, to boost the dynamic pharmaceutical, life sciences and agri-technology sectors in the East of England. The HSP also fosters partnerships with world-renowned research institutions and is supported by Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, BioPark and RoCRE Rothamsted.

As part of this pioneering scheme, researchers in areas of medicines development, agri-science, biomedicine, and advanced materials are partnering with innovative businesses; helping them to research and develop new technologies, and translate their discoveries into high-value products and services. The HSP is focused on equipping a new generation of business-facing researchers to deliver industry-ready solutions to address two of the nation’s strategic challenges: high-efficiency food production and new precision healthcare technologies for our ageing population.

Delivering Ambition

Business Minister Richard Harrington said: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy we are investing an extra £4.7 billion – the biggest single increase since 1979 – into research and development to build on the UK’s already world-leading scientific strengths and ensure our expertise remains at the forefront of pioneering research.

“The partnership launched between the University, Hertfordshire LEP and local businesses will help deliver on this ambition, bringing together our world leading business leaders, with strong institutions and the best academic minds to create new opportunities for collaboration across the region.”

Support for local businesses

Local businesses can utilise the resources that the HSP offers in a variety of ways; small and medium sized enterprises from the region can commission bespoke research via a graduate researcher training scheme, access help and funding in bringing their product to market, access research design services to drive innovative science, and rent our state-of-the-art lab facilities and equipment housed in the University of Hertfordshire’s science building.

Professor Darragh Murnane, Director of the Hertfordshire Science Partnership, said: 'We’re aware that many companies are struggling to access funding, and scientists, to undertake the fundamental research they need to develop new products, and may be frustrated in their ambitions to develop innovative ideas and technologies.

'The University of Hertfordshire is a powerful resource of specialist researchers with the right attitude to partner with scientists in business and drive innovation. The Partnership will offer new opportunities to small and medium sized enterprises to access exactly the same research and innovation activities that are often only available to large industries. Our goal is to unlock opportunities to this otherwise hidden talent.'

'The Hertfordshire Science Partnership is a pioneering approach to partner businesses and academia'

Mark Bretton, Chair, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: 'The Hertfordshire Science Partnership is a pioneering approach to partner businesses and academia to achieve commercial outcomes by bringing cutting-edge scientific R&D to market. It is this outcome that is at the heart of what we are trying to achieve by developing a Local Industrial Strategy that plays to our key sector strengths and champions innovation.'

By integrating researchers from academia and business into a shared development team, HSP is pioneering a new approach to research partnerships that harnesses the power of academic creativity to navigate the pitfalls of industrial innovation cycles. The Partnership is expected to facilitate 28 knowledge exchange partnerships by 2023 and will result in 28 collaborative PhD projects.

Current projects

The current PhD with Industry Experience programmes include projects to investigate resistance to crop disease affecting oilseed rape for RSK ADAS Ltd, researching new ways of administering drugs to older patients who have difficulty swallowing for Fluid Pharma Ltd, exploring more efficient modelling for testing the effect of drugs on organs for CN Bio Innovations Ltd, and investigating growing food locally for Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation.

The HSP also includes a Therapy Accelerator Scheme which considers applications from research institutes and start-up enterprises for grant awards totalling £700,000. One such collaboration with the University of Cambridge is driving research to prevent the spread of a lethal form of pancreatic cancer. The new partnership will allow researchers to make rapid progress in designing and screening more potent drugs, generating the evidence required to attract translational funding and commercial partners.

Developing ways in which the University’s new science building could benefit local businesses on a practical, day-to-day level was a central consideration of the HSP.  The ‘Research Hotel and Concierge Service’ is a first for SMEs locally and is based on the shared use of specialist research facilities. The University’s brand new life science laboratories are available to business on a pay as you use, basis, and many businesses will be able to upskill their scientists to use the equipment for themselves.

For more information visit the Hertfordshire Science Partnership section of our website.

Funding the Hertfordshire Science Partnership

The project has secured £1.45m funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit the European Growth Funding section of the GOV.UK website.

Hertfordshire LEP invested £2.5m of funding from Growth Deal 2 into this project in 2016, with a further £1.45m of ERDF funding in 2017.

The University of Hertfordshire has sourced additional investment from industry bringing the total partnership funding to £6m.