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Ulster University is working with community partners North West Community Network and Developing Healthy Communities to run a pilot project to address the systemic challenges community groups and researchers can face in working together.

The Derry~Londonderry-based community partners have secured £91,286 for the project from the Ideas Fund, a grants programme run by the British Science Association and funded by Wellcome.

The project will see the University and community partners set up a joint community research and innovation collective, with the principle aim to build on learning from individual community projects that the Ideas Fund have already funded. The collective will also seek to take a more strategic approach in creating systems which support community partners and university-based researchers' collaboration more effectively.

After an initial mapping exercise, the collective will hold a series of events inviting community partners onto Ulster University’s Derry~Londonderry campus to showcase existing work and developing opportunities to foster new collaborative projects.

Welcoming news of the funding, Malachy Ó Néill, Director of Regional Development at Ulster University, said:

“We are delighted to secure this funding from the British Science Association, with partners, North West Community Network and Developing Healthy Communities, to develop a formal community and university research consortium. Together we are committed to co-creating and collaborating on new research opportunities, to share existing university and community-based research, to strengthen and establish new connections with community partners and to develop an innovative approach to collaborative research that has real impact in and for our local communities.”

Edel O’Doherty, Chief Executive of Developing Healthy Communities, said:

“The investment from the Ideas Fund provides an opportunity for community-based organisations to access valuable expertise from researchers in Ulster University. The unique approach adopted by the Ideas Fund offers multiple benefits to the partners involved, including forging genuine relationships across the sectors, creating new perspectives, and taking an evidence-based approach to grassroots community health improvement.”

Roisin McLaughlin, North West Community Network added:

“We are very excited about this work and are looking forward to strengthening relationships between community and the university and to develop an environment where community-university equitable partnerships will thrive. We hope this work will leave a legacy as community and university work in partnership together to develop a community research collective.”

Chris Manion, Head of Grants, Ideas Fund:

“We’re delighted to be supporting this new project, building on the incredible momentum that has developed around The Ideas Fund so far. We’ve seen so many examples of the brilliant things that can happen when communities take the lead in working with researchers – this new grant will help the partners to explore how to embed the approach as a way of working. North West Community Network, Developing Healthy Communities and Ulster University have shown great commitment to working together and we’re excited to see how this work develops in the coming months.”