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Ulster University in collaboration with local social enterprise, Inspire Workplaces, part of the charity Inspire, secured national recognition at this year’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) Best of the Best Awards 2020 for the work demonstrating the greatest social impact. As one of only 13 winners chosen from 800 innovative nominations across the UK, judges commended Ulster University’s interdisciplinary approach which brought together leading researchers from computing and psychology to strengthen the scope of the planned work. The winners were announced at a virtual awards ceremony on the 9th September with approximately 500 guests in attendance.

Empowering employees to manage their mental wellbeing.

This KTP collaboration aimed to create a web-based platform that offered access to mental health screening and support to employees of companies at risk of secondary traumatic stress. The work facilitated the development of the ‘Inspire Support Hub’ which exceeded its original brief, extending to the social enterprise’s wider remit of providing workplace wellbeing services to organisations across the UK and Ireland.

The anticipated reach of the Inspire Support Hub now has a potential end-user base of 800,000 lives. The hub’s preventative approach helps keep employees safe by giving them 24/7 access to education and coping strategies to mitigate any mental health issues they may be experiencing. Embedding digital wellbeing tools improves access to services, helping to reach people in need.

The project is currently implementing live chat functionality and is working towards embedding video counselling, helping to improve accessibility to the services provided and to be effective in reaching those living in rural areas.

Amanda Fullerton, Ulster University KTP Programme Manager, highlighted the positive effect that KTPs have on society and the economy through the provision of a well-funded support package that enables businesses to access leading university expertise and attract highly competent graduates to create innovative solutions that address a diverse range of industry challenges, saying:

“This KTP with Ulster University and Inspire Workplaces is totally deserving of this national award for greatest social impact, demonstrating how university experts from different research fields in computing and psychology can work in partnership with the right business partner to bring meaningful and effective mental health support to the workforce on an unprecedented scale with significant global traction.”

Professor Maurice Mulvenna from Ulster University’s academic team, commented:

“The collaboration between computing and psychology was critical in helping Inspire Workplaces pivot into the inevitable future of Digital Mental Health. This new digital hub can be used to augment traditional services and promote self-care and support that is available 24/7.”

Dr Raymond Bond from Ulster University’s academic team, commented:

“Digital health interventions and tools are likely key solutions to providing support to people during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during social distancing and lockdown measures. A particular benefit to those who may prefer to use digital health tools is the fact that their interactions with a computer can be somewhat anonymous and may remove any stigma they may feel, but the tools may also be a steppingstone to face-face services.”

Gillian Cameron, Software Developer and former KTP Associate appointed to oversee the project at Inspire Workplaces commented:

“I am delighted our Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Inspire Workplaces and Ulster University has been awarded the Societal Impact Award. I am excited to continue this work with Inspire Workplaces, and further cement our fantastic relationship with the interdisciplinary team at Ulster University, to develop digital interventions to help people manage their mental wellbeing.”

Congratulating Ulster University and Inspire Workplaces, Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI’s Director of Innovation, Research & Development said:

“The KTP Programme is an integral part of Northern Ireland’s business ecosystem with over 650 NI companies already participating in the Programme with Queen’s University, Ulster University, the Further Education Colleges and CAFRE. The Programme is invaluable to industry, graduates and institutions.”

“Northern Ireland is outperforming other regions in the UK in the delivery of KTP, so it is no surprise that, across the six categories, five Northern Ireland companies have won awards at this year’s national KTP awards. I would like to extend my congratulations to Inspire Workplaces, Ulster University and all the winners. We are proud to be a co-funder of KTP and look forward to being involved in its continued evolution in the coming years.”

The KTP Best of the Best Awards celebrate the most outstanding outputs of KTP collaborations between academic researchers, businesses and graduates. Hosted by KTN - a key delivery partner of the KTP programme - the National KTP Awards take place annually in London. However, due to Covid-19, this year’s 2020 Awards on the 9th of September were held in an immersive environment delivered in partnership with Immerse UK in the Laval Virtual world.

Now in its 45th year, KTP is one of the most successful and established knowledge exchange programmes, bringing new discoveries to market, creating hundreds of graduate jobs each year and delivering innovative solutions to societal problems.

Dr Alicia Greated, CEO of KTN said:

"At KTN we are committed to shaping innovation communities of the future, which is exactly what made these awards so inspiring! Not only are our KTP winners actively bringing research into commercial business environments, but they are also bringing new ways of thinking, diverse experience and varied skill sets together to make a meaningful difference in building a sustainable economy and society.”

KTN runs the KTP Best of the Best Awards as part of its delivery of the KTP programme for Innovate UK.

For more information on KTPs at Ulster University contact: Amanda Fullerton, KTP Programme Manager: