Dr Iain Thomas welcomes members to 2021 as he begins his 2-year term as Chair of PraxisAuril

Welcome to 2021 – a year that starts with as many, but different, challenges as 2020 ended on because of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. However, thanks to the combined efforts of academic research and industry partners there is light at the end of this particular tunnel. 

The Knowledge Exchange (KE) community’s response to the breaking pandemic was swift and hugely practical; for example, through generating rapid licensing models and delivering crisis-mode business support. These experiences will inform the way we work in the future. And as we keep our eye firmly on that future, KE teams will continue to support new collaborations and companies that will generate the jobs, products and services so important for recovery and renewal post-Covid-19.  

These searching times emphasise how valuable KE is to our economy and society.  The significance of the research-base (a research base that is significantly funded by the public purse) and its impact has been raised enormously and expectations for ever more effective translation have never been greater. PraxisAuril is here to help the KE community deliver on those expectations and champion the value of what we do to a wider public.  Increased visibility will bring wider recognition for the KE community and the work they do in different geographies and contexts.  

I have had the pleasure of meeting many PraxisAuril members through work, at conferences, and as a trainer. As chair of the Professional Development Committee, I sought to widen representation and broaden our relevance across the whole membership.  I instigated our continuous improvement process to keep our offering relevant: diversity, quality and relevance will remain the focus of PraxisAuril.  On the international stage, we will continue to support RTTP and build upon it to ensure recognition and support for the diversity of KE practices within our community.   

Digital platforms, adopted out of necessity last year, have broken down barriers of geography, resource, and hierarchy (it’s no longer ‘just the boss’ who gets to go to conference).  That means we can hear from and support a much more diverse set of people at different points in their career and from a wider range of institutional types in the UK and overseas.  Digital democratises, there is no looking back. 

Leadership is a key component of the KE Concordat (KEC); an initiative that has brought a clear focus on KE skills and structures needed to support the rich and diverse UK university sector.   Consequently, I am excited about our new programme to develop and promote a new generation of KE leaders. This will ensure the sector has a strong future, embraces new ideas and is open and inclusive of new voices.  We look forward to working with and supporting these new leaders as they grow and take on significant roles and responsibilities.   

I look forward to working with the PraxisAuril Executive Team, Board and volunteers and meeting many new members. I am also immensely grateful to my employer, Cambridge Enterprise, for supporting me in this role.  I am proud of the work PraxisAuril does to support you as members and practitioners. 


Best wishes and good luck to you all, 

Dr Iain Thomas 

January 2021