University scoops double win at Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnerships Awards

October 31st, 2023

Project Leaders from the university have scooped a double win at a prestigious awards ceremony which celebrates collaboration between academia and businesses and highlights the positive impact of research on real-world challenges.

The university’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) team, along with two KTP Associate embedded in businesses, picked up gongs at the Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership Awards in the distinguished Future Leaders category.

KTP Associates Leonardo Rodrigues, analyst and web developer for XAIS Asset Management Limited, and Alexandra Spencer, data scientist at Gleeds Cost Management Limited, each won awards in the Future Leaders category, which recognises KTP Associates who have demonstrated excellence in leadership, project management and delivery of innovative projects, contributing to the strategic goals of their organisations.

The unique arrangement of KTP sees university employees embedded in a business or not-for-profit organisations to manage a project, lasting anywhere from 12 months to three years; whilst they are technically managed and paid by the university, they work day-to-day for their respective businesses. By doing so, they bridge the gap between the two worlds, working like any other employee, but applying specialist research knowledge and skills that ultimately benefit both parties.

Leonardo’s host business, XAIS Asset Management Limited, is an IT consultancy specialising in asset management solutions for local authorities, highway network operators and international transport organisations.

Meanwhile Alexandra Spencer’s organisation, Gleeds Cost Management Limited, is a global, independent construction and property consultancy renowned for providing expert management, advisory, and cost-effective solutions across the built environment.

Both individuals are an extension of Nottingham’s KTP team and apply and embed research findings in the real world, enabling the practical application of knowledge gained through extensive research by their respective academic supervisors.

KTP Associate Leonardo Rodrigues, whose background is in civil engineering, joined XAIS Asset Management in March 2022 to design, develop and embed a tool to predict the future needs for maintenance of infrastructure assets, prioritising small preventive actions rather than large and expensive emergency repairs.

With an acute understanding of the challenges local authorities face, Leonardo bridged a three-way gap between those authorities, UoN researchers, and developers, to implement a robust user-friendly platform that allows for risk-based analysis, optimising maintenance costs and improving decision-making.

Commenting on his award win, Leonardo said: “Receiving the Future Leader Award in the 2023 Knowledge Transfer Partnerships awards is a tremendous honour.KTP Associate, Leonardo Rodrigues

“This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the support and guidance of the remarkable individuals at XAIS Asset Management and the University of Nottingham. In particular, Associate Professor Luis Neves has played a pivotal role in my success, offering exceptional mentorship and his friendship, which has been instrumental in helping us achieve the project’s objectives.”

Leonardo’s innovative approach and commercial awareness enabled him to create a fit-for-purpose commercial solution and has seen him recognised amongst commercial and academic communities alike. A paper based on his research was presented at the Eighth International Symposium on Life-Cycle Engineering (IALCCE 2023), which took place this summer in Milan, Italy, and has subsequently been published in the symposium proceedings, “Life-Cycle of Civil Engineering Systems”.

Meanwhile, KTP Associate Alexandra Spencer, an expert in data science, joined Gleeds in April 2022 and has made a significant impact to the organisation in such a short space of time. Her exceptional leadership skills have enabled her to manage team members effectively, whilst fostering a collaborative work environment.

Alexandra’s creativity and openness to experimentation has led her to surpass expectations creating new opportunities for growth and expansion by embedding better data and AI practices into Gleeds’ business model, by not only developing an AI powered cost prediction tool but also the Extract app, designed to accelerate Gleeds’ data collection process.

Alexandra explained: “Our projects are quite unique in their nature – there are a lot of ups and downs. You can go down different paths based on what you think are reasonable assumptions, only for it to lead nowhere, and sometimes you feel like you’ve failed. But I say to my team, ‘We haven’t failed, we’ve just learned what not to do’. And sometimes that’s a lot more valuable. I feel like lessons are crucial when it comes to project management.

“The thing you always have control over is your perception; how you choose to view that situation and how you choose to react to it. It’s made an amazing difference in my team – ever since I’ve been implementing this mindset we’ve gone from strength to strength. Everyone’s excited and the future looks amazing.”

Hannah Prydderch KTP Manager at UoN, said: “A huge congratulations to Leonardo, Alexandra and KTP colleagues on their achievements and to all finalists and winners at this year’s Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership Awards.”

You can watch the full Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnerships Awards ceremony on the Innovate UK website – skip to 40m:47s to see the Future Leaders Award winners receive their awards from Steve Welch, Director of Place, Skills and Knowledge Transfer, Innovate UK KTN.

*Pictured in wide banner image from left to right: Philippa Ryan – Knowledge Transfer Adviser, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire; Alexandra Spencer – KTP Associate; Andrea McCluskey – Business Development Officer, KTP, UoN.

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