Celebrating the contribution our research makes to society and the economy

Mike Chick Refugee project

Firas Almaghribi, whose life has been transformed thanks to an innovative project for refugees in Wales

About the awards

The work of academics across the University was celebrated at the third annual USW Impact Awards last night.

The awards celebrate and showcase the impact that our research and engagement activity is having beyond the University, together with its wide range of economic and social benefits.

The third annual awards saw Professor Paul Harrison welcome more than 120 guests, including shortlisted nominees and their collaborative partners.

Awards were presented in six categories, with a new category also added for Best Research Student Impact.

2019 Winners

Best Societal Impact, sponsored by Chwarae Teg

Language skills are a lifeline for refugees and asylum seekers who have settled in Wales. TESOL teacher Dr Mike Chick worked with the Welsh Refugee Council to provide English language lessons for forced migrants.

"Over the last four years we have helped so many asylum seekers during their first weeks in Wales, many of whom have escaped war and persecution and are now desperate to contribute to a society that is offering them safety from harm," said Dr Chick.

"I cannot stress highly enough how profound an effect working with professionals off campus, in this case in the third sector, has made me realise how universities are crucially, uniquely placed to contribute to society in many, diverse ways. "

Best Impact on the Economy, sponsored by Capital Law

Professor Sandra Esteves, Sustainable Environment Research Centre (SERC), has developed innovative biotechnology which utilises industrial waste carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce products including ‘green’ methane gas.

Capturing and utilising just 10% of the CO2 produced by the power and industrial sectors in the UK alone would produce methane gas with a value of over £1BN per year.

“As researchers, making scientific discoveries and contributing to novel processes development in terms of technology-readiness levels is very satisfying," said Professor Esteves.

"But the most enjoyable aspect is realising that industry and other stakeholders are interested in the work, recognise the potential, and are prepared to continue to engage with us to develop and demonstrate the technology further.”

Best Impact on Culture, Heritage & Arts, sponsored National Museum of Wales

This was awarded to Dr Emily Underwood-Lee, George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling, for the Forty Voices Forty Years project with Welsh Women’s Aid.

The powerful digital  stories included in the project have transformed policy and service provision for victims of domestic violence in Wales, as well as informed training for police officers.

Dr Underwood-Lee said: "I’m proud of playing a role in a project that enables women’s stories to be heard on a national stage and at the highest level in Government.

"This award will allow us to amplify these stories and get them heard in places where they can be used to educate and inform and to make real change to the lives of women and children in Wales and beyond."

Best Environmental Impact, sponsored by Celsa Steel UK

RUMM Ltd, a spin-out company from the University, came out top in this category. The company has provided an energy management service that enabled its clients to reduce their energy use, equating to a reduction in carbon emissions of 300,000 tonnes and energy cost savings of £43 million pounds. The company was acquired by RWE npower Ltd in April 2015.

Best Future Impact, sponsored by Thermal Compaction Group

Professor Gary Higgs and PhD student Richard Williams of the GIS Research Group worked with Tenovus Cancer Care to optimise the location and delivery of their mobile cancer units.

"Few of us have not been touched in some way by the impacts of cancer. Therefore, this research has been particularly rewarding given the need to reduce the distances involved to get treatment and advice," said Professor Higgs.

"The benefits for patients at a particularly stressful time are clear – more convenient and accessible locations for treatment and environmental benefits in terms of reduced miles travelled.

Best Research Student Impact, sponsored by USW Graduate School

This was jointly awarded to Wendy Booth for her work to promote ethno-cultural empathy and racial tolerance in secondary schools in Wales, and Tom Owens for his work to understand the link between concussion and dementia.

Tom said: "It was a privilege to work with current professional and retired rugby players from the Cardiff Blues and Bridgend Former Players Association (BFPA).

"Their commitment to the study confirms that concussion has become a real-life concern for the development of irreversible neurodegenerative diseases."

Wendy said: "I've worked hard to extend my research beyond the scope of my PhD, and it's really nice for that to be appreciated. This is a brilliant way to end my PhD journey."

Professor Paul Harrison, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Innovation, added: “The breadth and depth of these projects is testament to the space the University of South Wales occupies as a professionally-focussed, business-engaged university. 

"We understand the importance of knowledge exchange: translating research in to local businesses and industry to help them deliver new products and services and hence support economic growth within South Wales, the UK and beyond.”

For more information about next year's Impact Awards or to become a sponsor, please contact Donna Szarun, Knowledge Transfer & Impact Officer.

WATCH all the shortlisted projects here