Success for University of Glasgow at impact awards

University of Glasgow research projects which aimed to help deepen understanding of the motivations of people who go missing and the importance of ‘business angel’ investment have received major awards for their impact on public life.

Two University research projects received awards from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) at the Celebrating Impact Prize 2015 event in London on Wednesday 24 June 2015.

The prize is an annual opportunity to recognise and reward the successes of ESRC-funded researchers who have achieved, or are currently achieving, outstanding economic and societal impacts on the lives and work of people both in the UK and internationally.

Missing people

Dr Hester Parr’s Geographies of Missing People project picked up the Outstanding Impact in Society prize. Professor Colin Mason and the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Richard Harrison received the Outstanding Impact in Business award for their Developing Business Angel Investment in the UK initiative.

Dr Hester ParrDr Parr worked with partners from the Universities of Dundee and Abertay to develop new guidance and training resources for UK police services on the handling of missing persons and their families, with support from the charity Missing People, the Scottish Institute for Policing Research and Police Scotland.

Dr Parr, of the University’s School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, said: “A key aim of our work was to change police attitudes to missing people. Our intention was to use an innovative impact strategy that reminded police officers that missing people are not simply a time-resource problem but people with complex motivations and emotions.

“We interviewed 45 people who had returned after going missing, which provided invaluable insight into their thoughts and motivations and what happened to them while they were absent. From this material the Glasgow based team created ten engaging missing persons ‘stories’ which powerfully conveyed the emotional and physical experience of being missing.

“Feeding these stories and their learning points into formal reports, police training, education and policy forums has impacted police guidance on missing persons, improved training interventions and a more empathic response from police officers.

“We also benefited from support from the University of Glasgow’s Knowledge Exchange Fund, which allowed us to work more closely with the UK Police College to update policing models, hold workshops with the Police National Search Centre and Police Scotland, and further build our relationship with the Missing People charity.”

Geographies of Missing People

As a result of the team’s work, Police Scotland has included changes to good practice guidance on the handling of missing persons, and similar changes are underway in England and Wales.

Dr Parr and her colleague Penny Woolnough – an expert in missing persons search, originally with Police Scotland - now sit on the Scottish Government-led Working Group on Missing Persons Strategy for Scotland 2014-2015 and Dr Parr has been appointed to the Advisory Board of the newly established Aftercare Service for the Missing People Charity in Wales.

Business angels

Professor Colin MassonProfessor Colin Mason and Professor Richard Harrison have worked together on business angel development research projects for more than 25 years. They have played a key role in stimulating annual UK business angel investment worth £750 million and ensuring government support for this key source of entrepreneurial finance.

Since 1990, their work has proved hugely influential in promoting the concept of angel investing among wealthy individuals, helping entrepreneurs understand what investors look for in a business plan and  influencing the introduction of policy measures to increase the supply of angel finance.

Their proposal for business angel networks (BANs) was adopted in 1991 by the UK government in five pilot projects. The Department of Trade and Industry subsequently requested a best practice guide for the formation of BANs and adopted their proposals for investment readiness programmes.  As a result of their research, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and World Bank also adopted the idea of ‘investment readiness’.  

Mason and Harrison produced a review of angel investment activity for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills which led to the 2012 Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, providing tax incentives for small enterprises and start-up businesses.

Professor Mason, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Glasgow’s Adam Smith Business School, said: “In the 1990s, business angels tended to invest individually or with a few friends. Now, we are seeing the demise of angel networks and the emergence of managed angel groups where angel investors work together in order to diversify risk. Through our work, we aim to help both policymakers and entrepreneurs understand the implications of this significant transformation in angel investing.”

Professor Harrison, of the University of Edinburgh Business School, said: “Our study was the first to identify the importance of business angels as a key source of entrepreneurial finance to support new and growing ventures in the UK. We’re very pleased to have our work recognised by ESRC’s Celebrating Impact awards.”

Business Angel Investment

Professor Jonathan Cooper, the University of Glasgow’s Vice Principal Innovation & Knowledge Exchange, said: “It’s a testament to the breadth and quality of our research that these two very different projects have been nominated for ERSC’s prestigious impact awards. I’d like to congratulate both Dr Parr and Professor Mason for their excellent work, which has made a significant contribution outside academia.”

ESRC Chief Executive Professor Jane Elliott said: “I would like to thank all those researchers recognised at this year’s Impact Prize Awards ceremony for their important work. In the ESRC's 50th anniversary year, they have reminded us of how much social science research can contribute to transforming our society for the better.”

A panel of experts selected the shortlist from a wide range of submissions, which included written evidence from organisations that have used the research to shape their policies and practice. The winners were announced at an event at Central Hall Westminster on 24 June 2015, organised in partnership with SAGE and hosted by BBC Radio 4 broadcaster Laurie Taylor.


First published: 6 July 2015

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