A big wheel in industry circles

April 26, 1996

An impressive track record in attracting industrial funding for research brought personal congratulations from Prime Minister John Major for biologist Janet Hemingway and a Pounds 35,000 prize for her department.

The school of pure and applied biology at the University of Wales, Cardiff, won joint first-prize in the Office of Science and Technology competition for industry-academe collaboration. The school increased multinational company backing from an average of Pounds 25,000 per annum between 1990 and 1994 to Pounds 300,000 in 1995, and funding from small and medium-sized businesses from Pounds 32,000 to Pounds 300,000.

Professor Hemingway's contribution to this included bringing research to the attention of industry through a host of projects, ranging from pest control to improving yeast strains for the brewing of cider.

Her work on pest management has led to one of the biggest ever pest management programmes which involves cloning resistance to insecticides out of insects such as mosquitoes and the common cockroach. Now she is helping to set up a Welsh pest management forum, to bring more academics working in this area together with industry leaders.

"As soon as you get that kind of movement going, industry gets to know that there are academics out there who are willing to collaborate," she said.

Professor Hemingway believes academics are beginning to realise how much industry links can enhance their career prospects, as well as increasing resources available in their research.

"It is clear that is the direction the Government is pushing us in, and people are responding to that pressure. It used to be you were marked down for working with industry, but now it is the name of the game," she added.

What is less clear is how much benefit is gained through the Research Assessment Exercise, even in the major research universities, she suggests.

"It does take up an awful lot of time and effort. In the time it takes I might have generated another Pounds 100,000 for the university through industry links," she said.

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