The British Academy announces 20 new researcher-led Innovation Fellowships for 2023-2024

22 May 2024

researchers discussing paperwork in an office environment

The British Academy is pleased to announce funding for 20 recipients of the 2023-2024 Innovation Fellowships (Route A: Researcher led).

The scheme is designed for early- and mid-career researchers in the SHAPE disciplines to work with partner organisations to address challenges requiring innovative approaches and solutions. Possible partner organisations include businesses, charities, think tanks and community organisations.

Funded by the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, the one-year Fellowships encourage researchers to create new and deeper links beyond academia, enabling knowledge mobilisation and translation.

The 2023-24 Innovation Fellowships (Route A: Researcher-led) awardees are:

Please note: Awards are arranged alphabetically by surname of the grant recipient. The institution is that given at the time of application.

Dr Hayleigh Bosher

Co-applicant: Miss Lizzie Bracegirdle, Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)


The Future of the UK Music Industry: Exploring Policy and Practice

Brunel University London


As a result of technological and cultural change, amplified by Brexit and the pandemic, together with the desire to enhance and strengthen the resilience of the music industry amidst booming global competition, this fellowship seizes the opportunity to inform UK policy. Utilising the lead-researcher’s unique position as a trusted advisor to policymakers and the industry, this fellowship brings together academia, UK Government, and music to analyse pivotal aspects for promoting the sustainable success of the music industry. The core focus areas, structured into four pillars, encompass recognising the multifaceted value of music, fostering a sustainable and inclusive industry, regulating and future-proofing the sector, and promoting global success through enhanced export strategies. The lead-researcher consolidates strategies and insights, engaging policymakers, and industry to advance UK music policy. Building on the researchers’ reputation for communicating to non-specialist audiences it embraces public engagement through a broad dissemination strategy.

Dr Haneul Choi

Co-applicant: Mr John Williams, SCVC


Investigation of the role of universities and their external partners in the regional innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem

University of Bristol


I aim to investigate academic entrepreneurship, with a primary focus on external non-academic venture builders. One significant gap in academic entrepreneurship literature is its disproportionate focus on university actors such as scientists and university tech transfer officers without enough consideration of the roles, perceptions, and behaviours of non-academic venture builders in the process. To address the gap, I seek to investigate non-academic actors' experiences in collaborating with university actors in commercializing university technology. Through interviews with local academic and non-academic actors, I intend to highlight opportunities and challenges faced by non-academic venture builders in academic entrepreneurship, juxtaposed with the perspectives of university-based actors. This holistic approach aims to provide a well-rounded view of the academic entrepreneurship process. The fellowship, with the support of a co-applicant experienced in academia-industry interactions, can provide novel insights, and create real-world impact by fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange within the regional innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Dr Jane Chudleigh

Co-applicant: Mr John James, Sickle Cell Society


Co-designing support strategies for parents to encourage early engagement with health services during the first year following their child’s diagnosis of sickle cell disorder.

King's College London


Background: Sickle cell disorder (SCD), the commonest genetic (faulty gene inherited from both parents) condition in the UK, affects mainly underserved groups. Babies with SCD must start treatments soon after birth to prevent them becoming unwell. Stigma, fear and inequalities can make it difficult for parents to accept their child’s diagnosis and access appropriate treatment and support. Aim: Develop strategies to improve support for parents during their child’s first year of life following a SCD diagnosis to encourage early engagement with health services. Method: Comprises two stages: (i) Determine why parents choose to engage with support or not (ii) Use this information to co-design strategies to ensure greater accessibility of support for parents during their child’s first year of life. Patient and Public Involvement: We are working with Sickle Cell Society and parents of children with SCD. Dissemination: Findings will be shared with support groups, charities, health professionals and academics.

Dr Alexandra Cox

Co-applicant: Ms Marcia Walker, Westminster City Council


Engaging Black Fathers in Youth Justice and Child Welfare Services

University of Reading


There were over 50,000 children in England and Wales involved in the child welfare system and over 13,000 children who were in the youth justice system in 2022. Engagement with the parents of these children is critical to their well-being. Yet, local authorities struggle to engage with fathers of these children, particularly non-resident Black fathers. There are several dynamics shaping this low engagement, including racialised social stigma attached to Black men, and the perceptions of risk and gender-based norms held by practitioners in local authorities. This is a collaboration between Dr Alexandra Cox, Westminster City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea aimed at understanding the dynamics shaping non-engagement with Black fathers and developing training tools for child welfare and youth justice workers. The broader aim is to reduce the numbers of ethnic minority children, and particularly Black children, in care and in the youth justice system.

Dr Lee Crookes

Co-applicant: Mr Daniel Parry-King, Sheffield City Council


Making space for young people in urban regeneration: creating a Young Futures Commission in Gleadless Valley, Sheffield

University of Sheffield


Whilst planning scholars and practitioners frequently discuss the importance of involving young people in planning and urban development, in practice, the views of young people are rarely considered. Working with Sheffield City Council (SCC), the project will establish an innovative, youth-led Young Futures Commission to listen to and learn from young people and make recommendations to the Council for youth engagement in Gleadless Valley, an area of the city that is currently undergoing regeneration. The project will also deliver learning and best practice to guide SCC's approach to engaging young people across Sheffield and strengthen links between SCC and the University of Sheffield with a view to developing longer-term, mutually beneficial collaborations beyond the life of the project to support further research, innovation, knowledge exchange and engaged learning activities in Gleadless Valley and other low income areas of the city where the University currently has little reach.

Professor Naomi Flynn

Co-applicant: Ms Claire Barker, Hampshire County Council


Promoting schools’ positive orientations to diversity to improve educational outcomes for multilingual learners

University of Reading


Multilingual pupils, those learning English as an additional language, form 20% of England’s primary school population, but there is persistent under-attainment among them. Funding to support these pupils is limited and short-term, teachers feel ill-equipped to teach them, and there is scant classroom research to inform their practice. It is known that schools with positive orientations to diversity are more likely to be responsive to these pupils, invest in pedagogical change to support them, and thus promote their social and academic success. However, little is understood about how professional development for teachers might foster growth of this vital asset-based mindset. Consequently, multilingual children’s school experiences are inequitable. This collaboration between Naomi Flynn and Hampshire’s Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS) will unite Flynn’s practitioner research with EMTAS’ training expertise to generate novel professional learning materials that positively orient schools towards diversity and improve future educational outcomes for multilingual learners.

Dr Chris Gill

Co-applicant: Ms Margaret Kelly, Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman


The ombudsman and the protection of asylum seekers and refugees in Northern Ireland: developing innovative collaborations, methods, and practices

University of Glasgow


This project will improve the mechanisms whereby the rights of asylum seekers and refugees are protected. There are major impediments to these groups accessing their entitlements to public services. The barriers to pursuing redress through the courts are high. Many problems are, in any event, non-justiciable. The ombudsman* - with its procedural flexibility, strong investigation powers, and ability to recommend systemic change - is well placed to plug this access-to-justice gap. However, until recently, ombudsmen have done little to (a) prioritise vulnerable migrant populations and (b) tackle systemic injustice. This project will shift the dial. By engaging in collaborative research and engagement between the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO), civil society organisations, and academics the project will develop: novel collaborations; an evidence base for innovation; and resources to support the protection asylum seekers and refugees in Northern Ireland and beyond.

Dr Nicholas Gray

Co-applicant: Mr Henri Murison, Northern Powerhouse Partnership


Post-Brexit regional development funding in practice: exploring the implementation of the UK Shared Prosperity fund

Teesside University


The project will examine the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the UK Government's replacement for EU regional development funding and a key tool for reducing regional inequalities (“levelling up”). It will look at how different levels of government are managing this new fund and using it to support projects in different parts of the country. The research will highlight things that are going well and things that could be improved in the way the fund works, and how it links with other regional policies. In this way, the project will help national, local and regional government, businesses and voluntary/community sector groups understand how the SPF is working and what could be done to improve it. In addition, this exploration of the SPF will provide a lens for a broader assessment of current regional policy and the institutions that support it.

Dr Candice Howarth

Co-applicant: Dr Ellie Murtagh, British Red Cross


Achieving climate-resilient net zero: combining climate adaptation and mitigation measures to support emergency responses to extreme heat in London

London School of Economics and Political Science


Climate action is driven by efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. mitigation) to reach net zero, with adaptation to climate impacts, such as extreme heat, lagging. Mitigation and adaptation strategies are often developed separately with little consideration for synergies or unintended consequences. A ‘climate resilient net zero’ approach to climate action is needed, where adaptation and mitigation are complementary activities. Through collaborative research and ambitious knowledge exchange with the British Red Cross, this Fellowship will explore how action on adaptation and mitigation efforts can be combined, using a case study of emergency responses to extreme heat in London. The Fellowship will (i) explore how to combine adaptation and mitigation approaches to help London residents stay cool during extreme heat without increasing emissions, and (ii) develop a strategy for adopting climate-resilient net zero responses to extreme heat through education and awareness-raising.

Dr Hayley James

Co-applicant: Ms Sope Otulana, Nest Insight


Real Accounts – building momentum for change

Aston University


This Fellowship builds on Real Accounts, an innovative financial diaries research project led by Nest Insight with Centre for Personal Financial Wellbeing, Aston, and Glasgow Caledonian University, with funding from the Aviva Foundation, from November 2022 - March 2024. As the cost of living crisis has negatively affected financial wellbeing and resilience in the UK, Real Accounts engages with households who experience volatility in their finances to better understand how they navigate financial decisions. Financial products and policies are often designed around assumptions of regular, salaried income, so the insights from the research are valuable to derive solutions which actually work for households. This Fellowship uses insights from Real Accounts to build momentum for change amongst key stakeholders and interest groups through co-design of solutions, such as managing pay frequencies, savings or insurance, dissemination through academic papers and fostering change-maker groups, and knowledge transfer of the innovative financial diaries methodology.

Dr Eleni Karagiannaki

Co-applicant: Ms Priya Sahni-Nicholas, The Equality Trust


The Challenge of Ethnic Wealth Inequalities: Building Understanding

London School of Economics and Political Science


Campaigning organisations have increasingly recognised the role that wealth plays in sustaining economic inequality but there are key gaps in the evidence on which they can draw. This project aims to fill one such gap by building understanding of the drivers of ethnic wealth inequalities. Existing analysis reveals heterogeneity in wealth holdings across different ethnic groups but has failed to identify why some ethnic groups have been able to build wealth while others not. Analysing nationally representative household survey data, this project will examine how ethnic wealth inequalities have evolved over time and how wealth holdings of different ethnic groups develop over the life-course. Through partnering with the Equality Trust, it will use the crucial evidence generated on the drivers and dynamics of ethnic wealth inequality to engage in high-impact knowledge exchange, helping to inform innovative policy solutions to help people from disadvantaged ethnic minority groups build their assets.

Dr Nicola Lester

Co-applicant: Mrs Keisha Ehigie, Imagine Me Stories Ltd


Pages of possibility: Cultivating empowered young minds through diverse characters in literature

University of Manchester


While it's widely believed that reading books featuring main characters that reflect children's own realities can boost their self-concept and self-esteem, there is a surprising lack of scientific evidence to support this claim. The aim of this project is to solve that problem by providing the first empirical evidence to answer the question: ‘Does the self-esteem and self-concept of young Black children improve after engaging with books containing authentic Black main characters, relative to engagement with books that do not contain Black main characters?’ A recent survey suggests it is children from Black ethnic backgrounds between 8-11 years who struggle most to see themselves in the books that they read, so this project will explore changes in self-esteem of this particular group, by engaging them in a six-week reading programme which manipulates the ethnicity of the main characters in the books.

Dr Marcel Lukas

Co-applicant: Mrs Alison Dagwell, GoHenry UK


Bridging the Financial Literacy Gap: A Multi-Method Study on Children and FinTech

University of St Andrews


Addressing the urgent societal problem of inadequate financial literacy among children, the proposed research employs a multi-method, and collaborative approach by integrating FinTech applications with evidence-based educational programmes. Harnessing data from an extensive pool of around one million children, provided by our industry partner GoHenry, the proposed research assesses the efficacy of digital interventions in shaping robust financial behaviours among children. Our findings gain added depth through strategic collaborations with advisors and partners at the Office for National Statistics and the Money and Pensions Service, thereby expanding the project's societal impact. This multi-method research project is structured around three pivotal Phases: 1) an in-depth quantitative examination of income, spending, and savings trends among UK children; 2) school-based focus group discussions to explore the role of technology in financial education; and 3) the design and empirical testing of app-based educational interventions targeting financial literacy.

Professor Niall MacKenzie

Co-applicant: Mr David Grahame, LINC Scotland


Where angels tread: understanding the economic impact of early stage risk capital in Scotland, 2000-present

University of Glasgow


The proposal seeks to establish a performance framework for evaluating the effectiveness of angel investment and supporting financial instruments for entrepreneurial firm growth in Scotland since 2000. The context for the research is the academic and policy debate on how to address the so-called ‘equity gap’ facing high-growth firms in countries/regions outside the geographical core in the UK of the South East, and the disputed effectiveness of financial policy instruments targeted at improving access to capital. Over the past decade, increased funding has been allocated to regionally differentiated financial instruments to provide early-stage risk capital but the economic impact remains a secondary understanding to the commercial performance of such initiatives. Utilising the membership and proprietary data held by the partner Angel Capital Scotland, the proposed work will develop a methodology to be applied across the UK for understanding the economic impact of angel investment and associated financial instruments.

Dr Olayiwola Oladiran

Co-applicant: Mr Henrie Westlake, Knight Frank


Blended Workspace Models (BWMs): analysing contemporary workspace use and developing models for blended workspace planning and management

University of Sheffield


Work culture has changed significantly in recent years. This has resulted in complications related to personnel and workspace planning, as well as the underutilisation of office spaces, among other issues. COVID-19 accelerated remote and flexible working trends in the UK, rendering previous safe estimates regarding workplace needs obsolete. This research project aims to contribute new empirical information and conceptualise models to support future workspace planning in an increasingly flexible world. It will analyse the drivers and impacts of workplace changes and develop Blended Workspace Models (BWMs) as practical solutions to address the challenges associated with constantly evolving work practices. Through the collaboration with Knight Frank-a world-leading real estate consultancy, the project's core outcome is the BWMs designed to improve employees’ well-being, productivity, team cohesion, ergonomics, and office lease terms negotiation whilst minimising office space underutilisation, commute-related carbon emissions and other complications related to personnel and workspace planning and management.

Dr Laura Pajon

Co-applicant: Mrs Cristina Huddleston, Justice & Care


(Re-)inventing victim-centred approaches in modern slavery and human trafficking police investigations for successful victim engagement

Liverpool John Moores University


In Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking (MSHT) police investigations, victims’ cooperation is crucial to effectively protect them. Yet, police forces have been criticised for being ill-equipped to engage with MSHT victims. This collaboration with Justice & Care brings together research, policy and practice communities to co-develop a research-informed victim-centred best practice guidance to stimulate victim engagement, putting victims’ safety and well-being at the forefront of investigative efforts. The project combines data science with qualitative insights from practitioners and victims to assess investigative approaches and examine the determinants of impact in victim-centred police practices for successful victim engagement. The guidance co-created and for use by policymakers, law enforcement practitioners, and partner agencies will revolutionise investigative practices nationally, informing operational and strategic action plans. Findings will be particularly relevant for upcoming policies/legislation (e.g., Modern Slavery Bill, MSHT Victim Care Contract, Modern Slavery strategy), encouraging more proactive and efficient responses to MSHT victims.

Dr Sarah Papworth

Co-applicant: Mr Michael Waite, Surrey Wildlife Trust


How do we know if it worked? Measuring nature-friendly behaviour change

Royal Holloway, University of London


66% of UK adults consider climate change and the environment an important issue, yet the UK has lost approximately half its biodiversity and over 40% of native species are declining. Rapid change is required to support nature recovery, allowing the UK to meet the needs of its citizens, its national targets, and international commitments. Environmental NGOs (eNGOs) like The Wildlife Trusts are developing programmes to encourage nature-friendly behaviours, but evaluation of these efforts is not widespread. Distinguishing between effective and ineffective programmes, and sharing these evaluations, is a priority for eNGOs and the broader nature conservation community, to prevent misdirected time and funds. This project tackles a key challenge for nature recovery whilst strengthening the collaboration between the lead applicant, Dr Sarah Papworth, and Surrey Wildlife Trust. The project will collate best-practice and develop tools to allow evaluation of what works, and what doesn’t, to encourage nature-friendly behaviour change.

Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe

Co-applicant: Mr Grant Lewis Waters, Tranquil City Ltd


Measuring the Tranquil City: Co-design and development of an Impact Assessment Toolkit for equitable urban wellbeing

University of Surrey


Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe will collaborate with the SME Tranquil City to develop an Impact Assessment Toolkit (IAT) that can: 1) demonstrate the benefits of the SME’s active travel and green space interventions for wellbeing and sustainable behaviour, especially for communities at risk of health inequalities (Bristol, Cardiff, London); and 2) communicate those benefits to public, private, and third sector stakeholders, to drive adoption of sustainable development and lifestyle practices at city levels. These aims will be achieved through a 12-month Fellowship in four phases: understanding stakeholder needs and priorities; co-design of Impact Assessment Tools with stakeholders; testing and validating the tools in wider communities; and integration of the toolkit into Tranquil City’s business model. The project aims to understand how different community, policy, and business stakeholders perceive and respond to UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and will provide evidence about the experiences of populations seldom heard in urban planning dialogues.

Dr Agne Suziedelyte

Co-applicant: Mr Jonathan Holtby, Flex Data Inc


Is there useful information in video game data?

City, University of London


In this collaborative project, we will explore whether video game data contains valuable information that can be used in the selection of applicants into education and employment. Our main hypothesis is that complementing standard selection criteria such as grades with video game skill measures, developed by Flex Data, leads to more equitable selection and higher representation of disadvantaged individuals. Our secondary hypothesis is that increased equity comes at no cost to efficiency, that is, applicants selected using video game skill data perform at least as well as applicants selected on standard criteria only. These hypotheses are based on the evidence-backed assumptions that there is less inequality in video game skills than in standard selection criteria and that these skills are valuable. In this project, we will test our hypotheses in two contexts - video game training and recruitment, and in future, expand our research to other sectors.

Dr Richard Wallis

Co-applicant: Mr Ewan Vinnicombe-Wallis, Fremantle Global Entertainment


Supportive offboarding: Developing new practices to support sustainable freelance careers in TV

Bournemouth University


This Innovation Fellowship will facilitate the Fellow to work with his Co-Applicant to develop an intervention to support freelance TV workers at the crucial point at which their contract to work on a show is coming to its end: supportive offboarding. The work will take place within the UK-based television conglomerate, Fremantle, which is a major producer and distributor of TV content in the UK and beyond. It is responsible for shows including Britain’s Got Talent, Pop Idol and the X-Factor. This ground-breaking project draws directly on the Fellow’s extensive research into the experience of media employment, career development and support and the problem of retention across the industry. The project will adopt a design-develop-test protocol to create and then refine the intervention in a highly controllable way, scaling-up over three stages. The intervention will be applied across different Fremantle companies/labels and with different shows over the project’s three stages.

The awards listed are those for the 2023-24 Innovation Fellowships (Route A: Researcher-led). Previous award announcements can be found on the Innovation Fellowships Scheme – Route A (Researcher-led) past awards page.

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