Business Boost: How PhD Students can Collaborate with your Business

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Discover how the South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership is working to help businesses innovate

WELCOME TO BUSINESS BOOST In this prospectus we showcase some of the exciting and innovative research projects being led by former and current students within the South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership. As the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) outlines, the social sciences have a great deal to offer businesses – from understanding the potential for new goods, services and business models to improving relationships with providers, customers and employees. The training partnership brings together PhD-level expertise from the universities of Brighton, Portsmouth and Southampton, to deliver the latest developments in research method training, supported by funding from the ESRC. This is with the aim of equipping PhD-level students with the skills and expertise they need to tackle tomorrow’s economic, social, and societal challenges? As lead partner the University of Southampton is recognised in the UK for the quality and impact of our research. More than 96 per cent of our research environment is rated as ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014) and we’re ranked as one of Europe’s top 100 most innovative universities by Thomson Reuters.

We open our doors to businesses looking to use this world-leading research in a number of ways, as part of a wider portfolio of support, services and facilities we offer to business and organisations. If you’re thinking of taking the first step in finding out more about how university research can help boost your business, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

What can the social sciences do for you?

You may not think social sciences have value for your business, but they touch everything; let us show you how you can access our social science talent and expertise to boost your business.



Professor Athina Vlachantoni Director of the ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership


Ways we can work together


Getting ahead in the job market


Saving lives in COVID-19


Shedding light on complex business management


Keeping our sound heritage alive


Reflecting Sensory needs


Spreading the word on adapting to climate change


WAYS WE CAN WORK TOGETHER Where to start If you’re a business or an organisation that’s thinking of working in collaboration with a university, it’s understandable that you may feel a little daunted at first. Who to contact? Which university department? What’s the best subject area?

Problem-solvers Discover future talent – PhD students are problem solvers and their research skills can be applied in a multitude of environments to bring fresh thinking and innovation to your workforce. We’re a friendly, knowledgeable and approachable team, and we can help.

Recruitment pipeline

Consultancy and collaboration

There are a number of ways you can access our students across the collaborating universities in the ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership and develop a future recruitment pipeline. We find the most successful route is a personalised approach to meet your expectations. All we need is an initial conversation, then we’ll be able to match our expertise, providing a talent solution for your challenge to meet your timeframes and resources.

In addition to providing talented PhD students from the ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership to work on specific placements or projects, we can help to match you with academic expertise which you can access through a range of consultancy and collaborative research projects or by having a researcher seconded to come to work on a project within your business. We also offer tailored continuing professional development and training opportunities for your staff.

Unlock funding We can also help you unlock funding for research in your organisation by accessing grants only available through a university collaboration.

We offer you a fantastic way to finally get that important piece of research work off to a flying start. Get in touch and we’ll provide friendly, experienced guidance and, together, give your business a real boost. 3

Sustainability, environment and resilience

GETTING AHEAD IN THE JOB MARKET How an industry placement helped Kate New secure her future career. Kate’s SCDTP research into managing flood risk led to her getting a headstart in the employment market and securing a position with UK national mapping agency Ordnance Survey. Kate says the experiences she gained from her PhD in Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton and her placement at Ambiental Risk Analytics, in Brighton, have been invaluable to her in her new role as a Data Scientist at Ordnance Survey. While at Ambiental Risk Analytics she created a prototype of an enhanced flood risk index using Ambiental’s data and her own research knowledge to identify properties at risk of being cut-off in a flood event. The information generated from this prototype has the potential to increase awareness of flood risk for homeowners, businesses, and local government, and help them to become better


prepared for any potential disruption caused by flooding. The internship helped her apply theory from research to real world problems, understand customer requirements and the tools and data needed to meet them, and build prototype workflows and data products to demonstrate what is possible, which gave her the experience to draw upon to hit the ground running when she started at Ordnance Survey. She says that when she was applying for jobs, having the internship working in a geospatial business on her CV, combined with her specialist knowledge from her PhD, strengthened her applications.

“My internship provided invaluable experience when I was applying and interviewing for jobs, as I could demonstrate I had skills in working on innovative projects with business customers to achieve outcomes.” Dr Kate New Data Scientist, Ordnance Survey


Population change, health and wellbeing

SAVING LIVES IN COVID-19 How an interactive website helped save lives and reduce hospitalisations during the global pandemic. An interactive website, Germ Defence, targeted at reducing the spread of viruses in the home, is estimated to have potentially saved more than 250 lives and reduced hospitalisations by 780, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Germ Defence, co-developed by Sascha Miller at the University of Southampton, has reduced the occurrence and severity of illness by increasing infection prevention behaviours. A large trial showed the advice was effective in reducing seasonal colds and flu, and the intervention was disseminated to the community to address issues such as sick leave, protecting vulnerable clients, and reducing antibiotic prescriptions.


As the coronavirus pandemic spread, Germ Defence secured Government funding to adapt and disseminate at scale, to try and slow the spread of the virus. Through media coverage and GP practices, the website advised people to selfisolate, social distance, open windows, wear masks, wash hands and increase cleaning within the home. Germ Defence has now been accessed more than half a million times and links to it are included in government guidance. Research collected through the website has also been reported in SAGE papers.

“Due to the pandemic, we needed to adapt and roll-out the Germ Defence website quickly and at scale, and my PhD research proved to be invaluable in achieving this. It provided the link between showing that an intervention works at trial and creating an accessible public resource – which was vital to encouraging so many people to use it.” Dr Sascha Miller Enterprise Fellow, Centre for Clinical and Community Applications of Health Psychology, School of Psychology, University of Southampton


Global economies and business innovation

SHEDDING LIGHT ON COMPLEX BUSINESS MANAGEMENT How social science research methods are shedding light on complex business management practices. There is an increasing demand for more defined ways of understanding management practices and a growing need to use innovative social science research techniques to draw new insights from complex management phenomena. David Alemna, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Portsmouth, has developed an innovative, data-driven case-based method that can help make these business practices clearer.


Dynamic Pattern Synthesis (DPS) combines cluster analysis, configurational modelling and text analytics to explore how systems change over time, taking into account various explanatory factors that may determine the outcomes. The technique can be used to develop

“Applying innovative mixed-method techniques provides a multidimensional perspective to observing a phenomena understudy. Such methodological approaches can also be utilised in assessing and enhancing business management practices.” Dr David Alemna Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature, University of Portsmouth

a better understanding of complex management phenomena, as it combines qualitative investigation with quantitative analysis. By aligning strategies, structure and environmental conditions, this can lead to improved decision-making.

The DPS method has recently been included in advice on policy evaluation methods submitted to the Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN), a centre bringing together expert policymakers, practitioners and researchers to promote evidence based policymaking.


Learning, knowledge and behaviour

KEEPING OUR SOUND HERITAGE ALIVE How listening walks and sound foraging workshops are keeping the UK’s sound heritage alive for people along the South Coast.

University of Brighton PhD student Bethan Prosser has been employed on an internship with Brighton and Hove Music for Connection (BHMC) to work on the Heritage Lottery programme Unlocking our Sound Heritage (UOSH). Across the UK there is a plethora of archived recordings, but as time passes and technology changes, many of these recordings are deteriorating or are difficult to listen to because the right equipment is no longer available. UOSH has been working on preserving sound recordings through digitisation, making them more accessible through categorisation and raising awareness among the public. As part of the Sounds to Keep project, based at The Keep in Brighton, Bethan has been involved in raising community awareness of sound archives by encouraging


local residents to explore the soundscapes of the area, as well as the archives themselves. This has included arranging listening walks, sound foraging workshops and online workshops. In response to the pandemic, Bethan has been involved in developing a new digital tool called RiTA (Remix the Archive). This online instrument creates sound palettes made up of sampled sounds, including from the archive, and allows people to make music real-time together online. The partnership has been working with disabled musicians to test out RiTA’s potential uses. The activities have enabled the organisers to gain new knowledge, skills and understanding about how sound activities can engage the community and improve well-being. BHMC has also been commissioned to run a series of listening walks and music-making workshops by Stanmer Park Restoration Project.

“This partnership has allowed me to creatively explore and reflect on listening, sound and our relationship to place. I have also gained an understanding about how PhD students can be involved in community-university partnerships and how academic knowledge on sound and sound methods can be of use to the wider community.” Bethan Prosser PhD student, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Brighton


Learning, knowledge and behaviour



How NHS England (NHSE) is being helped to accommodate the requirements of people with sensory needs as they decarbonise their lighting to reduce their carbon footprint.

Due to the growing global climate crisis, the NHSE has made a clear commitment to reduce the environmental impact of its services by upgrading its lighting to energy efficient LED technology. However, this new lighting has been identified as being frequently distressing in hospital settings for some people with sensory processing differences, such as, autism, neurodivergent and neurodegenerative conditions. Gemma Williams, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Brighton, has collaborated with an interdisciplinary team to help the NHSE consider the impact of this group when upgrading its lighting.

The team is also seeking to get the guidance included as an addendum in the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers Lighting for Healthcare Premises (LG02/19) document that informs lighting installations in healthcare settings, and working with colleagues on the University College London Light and Lighting MSc2 to consider future research and design implications.

Working with the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi), Buro Happold Lighting and Inclusive Design teams, Gemma and colleagues have produced a set of autism-informed technical guidelines for sensoryfriendly LED lighting in healthcare settings. The guidance has been published online1 for comment and consultation and is being shared with mental health hospitals and facilities. It will also be linked to the new British Standards Institute fast-tracked standard PAS 6463, Design for the mind – Neurodiversity and the built environment – Guide due out Spring 2022.

“I’ve enjoyed witnessing how beautifully productive interdisciplinary collaboration can be when it’s centred around a shared passion - in this case, improving the wellbeing of autistic people in healthcare settings. It’s exciting and moving to think about the influence this might have.” Dr Gemma L Williams Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre of Resilience for Social Justice, University of Brighton 1 2


Sustainability, environment and resilience

SPREADING THE WORD ON ADAPTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE How materials developed through research are helping refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in England better understand how they can adapt to climate change. Sien van der Plank, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southampton, is leading a project that is ensuring people with English as a second language are better aware of the measures required to adapt to climate change. Increasing climate change requires adaptation across all communities and Sien has been exploring the challenges of adapting to coastal flood risk and identifying opportunities to better support coastal adaptation. Research shows that the language used in the advice can be a challenge for people who are learning English as a second language.


Working with Engineering PhD student José Alejandro Pinto Rascon and the charity City Life Education and Action for Refugees (CLEAR), Sien has developed a series of lesson plans and materials aimed at these groups of people. The English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) lesson plans focus on climate change, flooding and heatwaves by introducing vocabulary

around these areas, as well as identifying outlets for further information on the current and future risks. They have been delivered to groups of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Southampton, and are now available for future use in English language classrooms around the country.

“By partnering with CLEAR in this project, I gained a better understanding of how challenging the vocabulary of adaptation can be when English is not an individual’s first language.” Dr Sien van der Plank Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, University of Southampton


The South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership focuses on these five themes – from AI to sustainability - these are just some of the ways you can access our knowledge to boost your business.

Citizenship, governance and security

Global economies and business innovation

Population change, health and wellbeing

From transport to energy, and security to sport, if you’re looking to harness the power of technology our expertise can help in a number of ways.

Are you drowning in a sea of data? Let us do a deep dive and bring your valuable data to the surface.

Do you want to understand population change and demographics to set your company’s direction for the next 10 years? We can help.

Learning, knowledge and behaviour

Sustainability, environment and resilience

Rigorous social science research can support new policies with evidence – by working with us you can develop new policy to improve lives.

If you want to head towards a greener future, our sustainability expertise can help you meet green goals in practical and effective ways.

Professor Melanie Nind Deputy Director ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership University of Southampton T: +44 (0) 23 8059 8968 E:

Dr Jane Kavanagh-Lauridsen Business Engagement Manager University of Southampton T: +44 (0) 23 8059 3095 E: