Academic Forum strengthens ties between academia and industry

Ever have a topical idea or question which you don’t know who to ask or even whether it has any value in asking? Well, this has often been the case in the water industry, where novel research ideas and questions may be confined to post-it notes in a desk-drawer.

United Utilities (UU), the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Course (EU Life-IP funded project) have been exploring ways of diversifying engagement with the academic community with the help of academic staff from a number of universities mainly from the North West of England (but not exclusively).

The aim is to develop a collaborative academic forum to facilitate a more open dialogue between academia, business and regulation authority on the research questions that exist in environmental management and the water industry. Utilising the knowledge of leading subject matter experts’, whilst offering opportunities for students to get involved in industry-focused research during their studies.

The forum wants to increase opportunities for industry led student projects, showcase student research and identify areas requiring further detailed investigation and investment.

Following the invaluable input from a number of university representatives at an initial forum workshop, we developed our first Academic Forum e-Newsletter. This interactive document hosts the consolidated list of environmental management research ideas and provides guidance on how students and academics can get involved with industry-focused research. The forum also aims to establish a gateway to a large network of environmental management stakeholders, offering an opportunity for research ideas to flow to and from industry and academia.

The Academic Forum is an exciting opportunity for students to conduct industry-relevant research with input and support from the water sector and a major European project, and for industry to develop new understanding through academic engagement which can be carried forward into the future. The platform is in its infancy but it is hoped that the network of people engaged through the forum will continue to grow and support the evolution of this new collaborative venture.

Those research ideas and questions which were once hidden from view, now have a platform to be seen and explored!