Student: Jeniffer Brierley
Company partner: Blizzard Survival
Academic Supervisor: Dr Samuel Oliver & Dr Neil P Walsh
A Researcher Destined not to be Left Out in the Cold
The main aim of the KESS project with Blizzard Survival was to look at how their products compared with the other market leaders. Blizzard, the company partner, make survival products like survival bags for people who are in cold environments.
The student experience
Our KESS student, Jennifer Brierley, was given the opportunity to work with a commercial partner in Blizzard; the project gave Jennifer the opportunity to gain an insight into the workings of a commercial company and to appreciate the financial implications of decisions that are made. Through this experience Jennifer began to understand the way in which her scientific activities fitted with the more commercial activities of the company. I think that engaging with the company will stand Jennifer in good stead in her future employment pathway, whichever direction she decides to go, whether it be academia or industry.
The benefits to the company
In the short term this research has helped Blizzard to understand how their products compare to other widely used products, like polythene survival bags. The research project has given the company some empirical evidence and some real numbers to help support their assertion that their product competes well against the best on the market.
In the long term, we are hoping that the emergency and armed services will look to adopt these products, so enabling them to better care for cold casualties in the field as a result of this research.
Positives for the school and other students
As a department, this research has allowed us to explore a new area, emergency medicine; this has been a good addition and has complemented our BSc (Hons) Sports Science (Outdoor Activities).
From the collaboration we have produced research papers for publication; it’s created a real buzz on the topic for us. It has also given our undergraduate students the opportunity to gain direct
experience on a live project with a company partner, assisting with the data collection. I think this experience for our undergraduate students has given them an insight into the real world of both work and research, better preparing them for the real world of work and for postgraduate/doctoral studies.
As a department working with a company partner we have been able to widen the net with our marketing, not only in terms of the courses that we offer, but as a serious research partner for industry while attending trade fairs with the company.
While participating in this KESS project I have gained a better understanding of the commercial needs of companies when linked to research. I believe that this experience will put me in a good position when applying for future funding for collaborative research projects, especially in terms of managing business needs and expectations.
Future research opportunities
As a Sport, Health and Exercise Science School our bread and butter is working with athletes and performance, we were able to follow up the KESS project with an Access to Masters (ATM) project with Blizzard. We worked with Blizzard using their products to help elite athletes, keeping them at the right temperature prior to performance. We were able to show that the Blizzard products, as with the work that Jennifer did in cold environments, were able to help athletic performance.
I think that Blizzard are looking to grow and when they grow so will the range of products that they offer; I think there is definitely a future here for collaboration in testing these new products as we have been doing. I also think that there is great potential for undertaking research with the company relating to the athletic research that we do, and developing that a bit further to see how we can optimise all of the products.
If I could do it differently…
I think we were very adventurous with some of the research objectives that we set and Jennifer did a fantastic job given the amount of time that she had to collect the data. I would suggest that we should maybe be more modest in the aims of some of the research studies that we set in the future. When applying for KESS type funding in the future we will spend a lot more time with the company setting out realistic/achievable goals for the research project.
Final thoughts on KESS
I think that KESS is a wonderful scheme and allows us as a school to involve local businesses in the academic setting, it is very important to have some level of outreach to the local community, and I think that the KESS project, working with a locally based business, has been a really nice way to achieve this collaboration.
It’s fantastic in that it gives students the opportunity to gain not only an academic qualification, but also provides a real world insight into the commercial activities of an SME like Blizzard. For me everybody wins, the academic gets to do more outreach activities, the student gets a qualification and experience, and in the example of Blizzard they have gained in confidence and they have real life data that they can use in discussions with potential buyers; so it’s a win win for everybody.