Students Staff

08 December 2015

University awarded £2.2 million to help transform local services

County Hall in Chelmsford

County Hall in Chelmsford: The University will be working with both Essex and Suffolk County Councils

A project between the University of Essex and two local authorities which aims to transform community services has won £2.2 million Catalyst funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

The University is joining forces with Essex County Council and Suffolk County Council to help improve and target services for vulnerable people using data analysis and the latest technology.

The project will create and test ‘smart’ tools to move towards a more preventative approach to delivering services to residents. These will evaluate the effectiveness of county council initiatives, inform decision making and support communities to help themselves.

The project will also establish a hub to support communities and public services, including boosting volunteering activities, engaging the University’s students to achieve a significant increase in volunteering. The aim is to double the number of Essex students involved in community-based volunteering and to reach 20% student participation in volunteering over the next three years. This will provide the added benefit of offering personal development opportunities and employment skills to the University’s students.

The funding, from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund, is awarded under the ‘universities as anchors’ initiative which aims to develop increased strategic linkages between higher education and key external partners such as local authorities. This collaboration will demonstrate the role University research and innovation can play in supporting local government in tackling current and future social and economic challenges, and strengthening communities.

The two local authorities have obtained funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) towards the ground-breaking £4 million project. This funding was awarded from the Transformation Challenge Award, to implement a more integrated approach to reducing demand for services and improving outcomes for residents.

The project provides a unique opportunity to apply the University’s academic knowledge and expertise in data analytics to assess risks and evaluate the impact and effectiveness of initiatives undertaken by the two county councils, which serve a combined population of some 2.5 million people.

The aim is to develop a better understanding of the factors affecting outcomes for vulnerable people – including families, children and the elderly - and the important role of volunteering and community organisations in shaping the outcomes.

Bryn Morris, Registrar and Secretary of the University of Essex, said: “This ground-breaking project will demonstrate how University research and innovation can make a real impact on policy-making and strengthening our communities. It signals our commitment to working more closely with local authorities to help improve social and economic outcomes.”

David Sweeney, HEFCE’s Director for Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange, said: “We are delighted to support this proposal which brings the university together with Essex and Suffolk County Councils to deliver a package of enhanced support across higher education and the local community.

“Our investment will enable the University to deliver innovative data analytics and risk tools to facilitate early intervention and prevention measures in health and social care, and provide for increased research and innovation activity, alongside increased student and graduate employability opportunities.”

Cllr David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council, said: “As a county where innovation brings prosperity, we are delighted to be working with the University of Essex to create and test new, innovative technology to help deliver more effective services to residents and communities.

“Our ongoing partnership with the University of Essex puts us at the forefront of local authorities seeking innovative solutions to the challenges we face.”

Cllr Colin Noble, Leader of Suffolk County Council, said: "The partnership between Suffolk and the University of Essex is a new model for a more efficient and innovative delivery of our services. I am excited at the prospect of this collaboration using original technology to secure strong and effectual services to the people of Suffolk."


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