Posted 15 June 2004Harper Adams University College is celebrating after being awarded more than £2million to head a national consortium of universities and to run its own innovative projects to support the rural economy.
The Shropshire university college won two bids for funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) worth £2,165,000. The cash injection, which has been awarded from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), will be spread over two years and provide at least twelve new jobs.
The first bid earned the college £1,000,000, which will be dedicated to developing a National Rural Knowledge Exchange (NRKE). This will see a consortium of 14 English universities combining to create an open-access Knowledge Exchange service to support rural businesses and the development of sustainable technology in the countryside.
Birmingham, Keele, Reading, and Newcastle Universities will be amongst those joining Harper Adams in the innovative new scheme, which will use academic skills and knowledge to provide the rural community with business advice, access to technology and innovative ideas. The West Midlands Consortium members are Birmingham, Warwick and Keele Universities and University College Worcester. Further education colleges such as Rodbaston and Walford Colleges, and organisations such as the Royal Agricultural Society will also be able to participate in the Knowledge Exchange service.
The project will include a national e-mail service, which will help people exchange ideas and knowledge and share experiences and concerns. Eric Howell, Head of Business Services, who is the driving force behind the college’s latest successful bids, said: “The two awards are great news for Harper Adams and show how our staff are working at the leading edge of innovation in the rural economy.” “There is a long tradition of self-help knowledge exchange amongst rural businesses. In the land-based industries there are many ‘societies’ which have effectively formed informal Chambers of Commerce. In the current rapid diversification of the rural economy, the need to meet and share experiences persists.
“By using the NRKE service, business groups or individuals will be able to use the business enquiry e-mail service, gain publicity, promote their own events, get professional advice on funding, and share experience with similarly motivated networks across the country.”
He added: “Businesses in the rural economy have much in common, independent of regional location, and there is a similar commonality of interest between rurally-focused academics working in Higher Education and Further Education institutions and faculties across the UK. The NRKE scheme will complement the work of Business Links, Regional Development Agency funded networks and others in providing access to academic knowledge and services.
A further £1,165,000 awarded to Harper Adams by HEFCE will enable the Newport college to provide new jobs and further develop its work with the rural community through the Centre for Rural Innovation (CfRI). Through business clubs and other initiatives the Centre aims to encourage rural entrepreneurship and innovation for sustainable farming; develop sustainable technology and the rural economy; link urban and rural economies and communities; and encourage food chain safety.
The HEIF funding will allow the university college to expand the successful Women in Rural Enterprise business club (WiRE), which supports rural businesswomen, and has more than 1,500 members across the UK. The HEIF award will strengthen services to members and provide a new development officer in the South and East of England. The Convalescent and Recuperative Environment project (CaRE), which uses rural property and human resources to assist urban healthcare provision, will also be expanded.
A new project, aimed at expanding the uptake of existing and near-market sustainable technologies for energy production and waste management, will also be developed. Mr Howell explained: “This will use the academic staff and facilities of the Harper Adams Estate to demonstrate and evaluate equipment and technical processes which, if successful, may be taken up by farmers and other investors in rural areas to form commercially viable enterprises. In particular the project aims to support West Midlands manufacturers in testing and promoting new equipment.”
The National Rural Knowledge Exchange will provide eight new jobs, comprising a National Director to run the service, four regional managers to work with Regional Development Agencies and universities around the country, two information technology staff and an administrative systems manager. Five of these posts will be based at Harper Adams, while the other three will be based in Essex, Gloucestershire and Cumbria.
Further new jobs at Harper Adams will include four posts for the Women in Rural Enterprise Business Club: a national development officer, an operations manager, a membership services administrator and a development officer for the South and East of England. There will also be a business network development officer for sustainable technologies in the West Midlands.
Note to Editors
• The two bids for funding from Higher Education Innovation Fund round 2 (HEIF 2) were submitted in February, after an extensive nine-month consultation with academic institutions, business representatives, regional and national government departments and advisors. • Funding will commence August 2004 until July 2006 • The Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) supports higher education institutions (HEIs) in knowledge transfer to, and interactions with, business and the wider community, for the benefit of the economy and society. It consolidates the third stream of funding initiated by the Higher Education Reach-out to Business and the Community fund (HEROBC). • Funding for the second round of the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF 2) was announced following the Government's 2003 White Paper, 'The future of higher education'. It continues and develops the work of the first round of HEIF, supporting interactions between higher education institutions (HEIs) and business, and between HEIs and the wider community. HEIF 2 also incorporates future activities based on current Science Enterprise Challenge and University Challenge initiatives in England. HEIF 2 therefore represents a consolidated third stream of funding, complementing core funding to institutions for research, and for learning and teaching. • HEIF 2 has been established as a partnership between the Department of Trade and Industry/Office of Science and Technology (DTI/OST), HEFCE, and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). • A total of £187 million will be available over the two years 2004-05 and 2005-06. This includes £46 million of additional resources from DTI/OST and DfES, above the levels implied by the combined spending of the two departments on this activity in 2003-04.