Connected Nation - Interview: Jodie Eastwood, Knowledge Quarter

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Jodie Eastwood is Project Manager at the Knowledge Quarter, a consortium of over 55 knowledge based institutions within a one mile radius of Kings Cross including Google, The British Library, the Wellcome Trust, Guardian News & Media.

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Jodie Eastwood, Knowledge Quarter

So I’m Jodie Eastwood, I currently lead on an organisation called Knowledge Quarter, and I am here today as the EPSRC kindly approached me to partner with them on this particular event. As an organisation we work with cultural institutions, with higher education institutions and from STEM as well, so I was really interested in exploring this idea of the Connected Nation and what that means in the wider realm as well. My background is actually in creating these types of collaborations. I worked on an Arts and Humanities Research Council project, so for me I was really interested in looking at how other research councils do the type of work that I've been subject to at the AHRC.

So for me it was a discovery, it was looking at the way the EPSRC engages, not just with the businesses but with the academics as well, and perhaps sort of looking at the slight differences the two Research Council have in that respect, and perhaps what they can learn from each other as well. I think research inherently is about connecting. As I said I've worked in the industry for some now and sometimes you know we move away from the idea that it’s people that run these kind of collaborations and projects. And I think for me that's the exciting thing here, is the focusing on the people that make the knowledge exchange happen, and the relationships that are developing between higher education institutions and businesses in order to facilitate innovation.

I think for me it’s this idea of Connected Nation, embedded in the ways in which Research Councils work. Rachel Cooper mentioned in her speech earlier about how she had been working across the plethora of research institutions, in order for them to become more connected, and I think that's probably something that I'll take away. It's not just the importance of the collaboration but it's also the importance of the connection between the people that facilitate the collaboration.

I think first and foremost, academic institutions can seem very impenetrable. For businesses, engaging with academics can seem difficult and somewhat cumbersome, but there are individuals within institutions that can support this kind of research collaboration. So engage with the business development managers, engage with the knowledge exchange experts, and they can then lead you to the right places within the academic institutions to form the relationships with the academics.

I think the other thing to remember is - again I'm throwing it all out here about people and about how it's about relationships with people - you know the projects, and the outcomes, and the impact and REF are all very high on the list of agendas for academia; however the relationships that you form when collaborating can lead to so many more things down the line, but it's really important to be able to collect on that individual level. I moved away from academia into the realm of knowledge through the Knowledge Quarter, because I was particularly interested in how and why institutions - not just research-focused but also others - can discuss and talk about and be introduced to a safe space in which to collaborate. I think that by the very nature of knowledge it's important for research institutions of whatever type to be open to collaboration as well as facilitate it.