Professor Dame Jessica Corner

November 20, 2020, by Michael Slade

The power of knowledge exchange

Update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

A key pillar of the University’s strategy is knowledge exchange. The importance of shared expertise is even more apparent in these challenging times: our researchers are informing a better understanding of the pandemic’s impact on so many aspects of our lives, while working with our partners to translate our discoveries will help drive economic recovery and build more resilient communities.

My own career has been shaped by the power of knowledge exchange. I trained as a nurse and specialised in cancer nursing at the Royal Marsden Hospital, which pioneered putting patients at the centre of care. My work with the Institute of Cancer Research and later with Macmillan Cancer Support further underpinned my belief that only by the sharing of knowledge – in this case between scientists and clinicians, and also by working in partnership with funding bodies and policymakers – can we bring about transformational change.

I learnt early in my career how to develop research that could shape government policy by the way I posed research questions, designed studies and worked in partnership with funding bodies and government departments from the very beginning. Also, by co-producing research with end-users, in my case, people living with cancer.

Today, I am thrilled to be part of a thriving ecosystem of knowledge exchange. We are one of the top universities for collaborative funding through Innovate UK. We have strong partnerships with businesses of all sizes, from local SMEs through to global companies like Rolls-Royce, GSK, Unilever and Google.

Working with our partners to level up the local economy, including initiatives like Universities for Nottingham, will further prepare the UK for the opportunities as well as challenges ahead.

As the University prepares to bring its new strategy to life, I have written about what knowledge exchange means to me, and how our people are at the very heart of the collaboration and partnerships that drive this essential part of our mission.

Please find out more at an online town hall exploring the future of knowledge exchange on Wednesday December 2. I will be joined by Professor Chris Gerada, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Industrial Strategy, Business Engagement and Impact, as we discuss with you:

  • The importance of knowledge exchange and how it aligns with the university strategy
  • The external landscape and the challenges and opportunities of KEF, Covid-19 and the Government’s Research and Development Roadmap
  • Our five key priorities to develop knowledge exchange and impact across all our campuses

This is one of a series of online town halls taking place to discuss the future of research. Please find out more and book your place here.

Research guidance during national restrictions

The University has updated its guidance on carrying out research during national restrictions.  Please also see information for researchers on our coronavirus web pages. We are ensuring that we comply with government guidance and trying to keep research going as much as possible. Researchers and research students are able to continue in-person research activities if the research work cannot reasonably be conducted from home.

Please familiarise yourself with our guidance. By working together and following the rules, our campuses will remain Covid-secure environments and open for research, ensuring we remain on course for recovery.

Fieldwork during the pandemic

National restrictions are of course having an impact on our research beyond Nottingham. But careful planning can ensure fieldwork can safely be resumed once current travel restrictions are eased. Ayesha Iqbal, a PhD student in the School of Pharmacy – and holder of a Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship for Research Excellence for International Students – has recently returned from a field trip to Pakistan, where she studied the potential benefits community pharmacies can bring to health and the economy in developing countries. Ayesha shares her experiences, including the welcome opportunity to write up her data during post-travel isolation!

Our contribution to the UK’s response

The continuing contribution of our researchers to the UK’s response to the pandemic includes a landmark study that found people of Black and Asian ethnicity are up to twice as likely to be infected with Covid-19 as those of White ethnicity. Dr Laura B Nellums, Assistant Professor in Global Health in the Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, is joint senior author of the paper, published in EClinical Medicine.

Professor Paul Greenhaff from the School of Life Sciences is among leading UK scientists calling for a national programme to keep older people healthy and resilient during lockdown, while Meryem Duygun, Professor of Banking and Finance at the Business School, is contributing to a UK-wide study of the impact of the virus on SMEs.

Updates for postgraduate research students

My update earlier this week for postgraduate research students (PGRs) and their supervisors included the University’s response to UKRI’s recent decisions on funded extensions for PGRs. Our PGRs will receive further updates next week, including specific arrangements for Covid-19 testing and support for research activity around the winter break.

Global Challenges Research Fund

I am thrilled that the University’s call for applications for the internal awards to support the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) had an outstanding response.

We had 58 proposals from exciting projects dedicated to cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries, and bring together researchers in international collaborations.

Fine out more: GCRF project summaries

Good news

I am delighted to share recognition of our outstanding researchers.

Maryam Zafar, a third year Politics and International Relations student, was the youngest panellist – and only undergraduate – at the United States Strategic Command Annual Deterrence Symposium, where she presented a paper inspired by her placement with the UK Defence Science and Technology Lab.

Yue (Yolanda) Yang, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC), has published a paper in the prestigious International Journal of Machine Tools and Manufacture. Remarkably, this is the fifth paper on advanced manufacturing that Yolanda has published in highly ranked journals since joining UNNC as a PhD student two years ago.

The Rights Lab’s Dr Alex Trautrims of the Business School has been shortlisted for ‘Best Research Film of the year’ at the 2020 Research in Film Awards for his film on modern slavery in Brazil. Watch MÃOS À CARNE here. Meanwhile his Rights Lab colleague, Dr Doreen Boyd of the School of Geography is winner of the 2020 Earth Observation for the Sustainable Development Goals Academia Award. Read more about Doreen’s pioneering work in fighting slavery from space.

Dr T’ng Chang Kwok, Neonatal Clinical Research Fellow in the Division of Child Health, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, has been awarded the prestigious Young Investigator Award of the European Society of Paediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care at the recent European Academy of Paediatrics conference with over 2,200 delegates.

Kathrin Yacavone, assistant professor in French in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, was awarded a Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which enables internationally outstanding researchers to pursue an extended period of research in Germany. The fellowship will enable Dr Yacavone to complete her book project Portrait of the Writer: Photography and Literary Culture in France (see

The Faculty of Engineering’s Dr Stephen Greedy and the Drone Defence group has secured £378,000 in grant funding to develop drone detection technology as part of UK Government’s ‘Future Flight Challenge’.

Researchfish 2021

Researchfish – the online platform that allows researchers to report to funders on the outcomes, outputs and impact of their discoveries – is an essential tool supporting the University’s focus on demonstrating the impact of our research.

It provides funders with the information they require to measure research impact and report on over £45bn of funding to government, their donors and other stakeholders, and so demonstrating the value of research.

The 2021 Researchfish submissions window opens on 1 February and closes on 11 March 2021.

During this period the University urges researchers and supporting colleagues to continue to exceed our compliance targets. In 2020, we achieved a 98.5% Researchfish compliance rate, with a 100% compliance for submissions related to Research Councils UK funding. This can be considered a success due to strike action during the majority of the submission window.

For further assistance or information please contact Zahra Sheraz (Research Strategy Manager – Analytics) or email

Exploring audience reactions to new music

Professor in Music Composition Elizabeth Kelly and Assistant Professor Duncan MacLeod of the Nottingham Forum for Artistic Research (NottFAR) have curated a one-day epic hosted by Lakeside Arts to explore audience responses to new music. The NottNOISE New Music Marathon features new works by over 30 composers from the Midlands and beyond. The event, which takes place on Sunday 29 November, was originally scheduled for earlier this year as a live event.

Are you on mute?

Finally, do look out for an ingenious fundraising idea from the Vet School on behalf of Vets in the Community. ‘You are on mute’ as undoubtedly become the catchphrase of virtual Teams meetings. Should you utter these words, please consider a nominal donation via JustGiving.

My thanks once again for your support and dedication and my very best wishes to you and your loved ones.

Best wishes

Jessica Corner's signature

Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange

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