Brilliant business talent
Why did you decide to launch the awards scheme?
I set up the awards in 1997 when I was Pro Chancellor at Keele University.
I saw all these academics with brilliant ideas, but little knowledge of taking them to the market place, while businesses didn't know how to access these ideas.
The aim was to bring the two sides together to help companies thrive and develop new income streams, and provide an added competitive advantage for universities.
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Did you believe it would still be going strong 15 years later?
Absolutely. Innovation has never been more important to our economy.
The work that universities do in helping businesses is more vital than it has ever been.
At a time when every penny counts, and when higher education and research institutions are having to work hard for additional resources, it is essential we showcase the work that is being done and the economic impact it is delivering.
Part of the initial aim behind the awards was to put Staffordshire on the map. What kind of impact have the winners and nominees from the region made over the years?
We have had some fantastic winners from Staffordshire, including nanoTherics at Keele – that is an unbelievable company producing world-beating technology.
Then, at the more traditional end, we've had Aynsley China, as well as companies like Rackety's in Leek, for their range of trousers for injured soldiers developed with Coventry University.
The whole idea is that the winners have to be a collaboration whereby the business and the university involved benefits.
What are your ambitions for the future?
To take the awards nationwide.
We used to get money from the Regional Development Agencies, but now they've gone, we get backing from universities as well as private companies.
I'm speaking to some of the East Midlands universities this month, and we've also got real interest from the north west and Scotland.
How fierce is the competition?
We typically get around 50 to 60 entries, and we've got some new categories this year.
We're bringing in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership award because I've been so impressed with some of the differences graduates have made with the companies they've been working with.
The deadline for entries to the Lord Stafford Awards is June 28. For more information about the categories, and to enter, visit www.thelordstafford awards.co.uk