The Team

Find out more about the staff working on the EIRA project, and who make up the EIRA Steering Group.

EIRA Staff

Emma Wakeling

Knowledge Exchange Manager – Digital Creative

University of Essex

Emma leads the Creative Digital specialism and supports this element for all the project partners. Emma joins the team from Essex County Council, where she designed and led programmes to support Essex businesses across key sectors. Prior to this she led on Business Development, Knowledge Exchange and Innovation within Higher Education, Further Education and Adult Education.

Dr Kenny Lang

Knowledge Exchange Fellow – Biotechnology

University of East Anglia

Kenny has over 20 years of experience in the biomedical and life science sectors within industrial R&D and start up environments. He has a long-standing interest in the validation of early stage technologies and managing their transition from the research bench to market. Kenny’s work with EIRA helps biotechnology businesses access the broad range of research expertise available from the universities and colleges in the region.

Don Shaw-Case

Knowledge Exchange Lead – Artificial Intelligence

University of Kent

A member of the British Computer Society, a Chartered Engineer, and in receipt of Chartered IT Professional status, Don leads the Artificial Intelligence theme for EIRA. With a BSc from Essex, and an MA from Kent, in computer science Don’s career in IT support and network administration has seen him work for a variety of companies, including the Financial Times and BBC Worldwide, as well as lecturing at Canterbury College and the University of Kent.

Sarah Birch

Knowledge Exchange Lead - Biotechnology

University of Kent

An MSc-qualified Research Scientist Project Manager, Sarah is experienced in leading projects in both cell line generation for early stage drug discovery and microbiology support for fragrance design programmes. She is passionate about promoting and building on the scientific network within the local area, and welcomes any further ventures in strengthening biotechnology research and commercialisation opportunities.

Adam Blackwood

Knowledge Exchange Fellow - Digital Creative

University of Kent

Adam’s experience includes involvement in the steering group for the government’s 3 year £16M MoleNET mobile technology initiative for education. With a background in computing, Adam’s role as EIRA Lead for Digital Creative allows him to extend his interests with technology solutions and helps benefit the research area and the region.

Janine Coomber

Knowledge Exchange Project Manager

University of Kent

Janine manages the team of Knowledge Exchange Leads in Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology and Digital Creative to support business growth and productivity in the Eastern region across these themes. With over 15 years’ project management experience gained in policing and education, Janine has spent the past 5 years developing projects with the community and industry within innovation departments at Canterbury College and the University of Kent.

Dr Karen Smith

Relationship Manager for Medical and Life Sciences and EIRA Team Manager

University of East Anglia

Following several years in management consultancy Karen worked at the University of Cambridge in roles including Head of the Corporate Liaison Office and Executive Director of the Cambridge Computational Biology Institute and at UCL as Director of Bioprocess Leadership. Karen now manages the EIRA Knowledge Exchange team at UEA, drawing on her extensive experience in developing opportunities for partnerships with private, public and third sector organisations and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the Schools of Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Pharmacy. She works closely with academics to promote key research capabilities through knowledge exchange, impact, enterprise and engagement. Karen holds two Masters degrees and a PhD from Emmanuel College, Cambridge (Neuroanatomy).

Ian Tebble

Knowledge Exchange Fellow – Artificial Intelligence

University of East Anglia

With over 40 years’ experience working in the food, biotechnology and renewables sectors, Ian is experienced in assessing the industrial potential of new technologies, leading projects from initial concept stages and scale up through to production. With EIRA, his role involves building links between academics and industry, and finding opportunities to develop research value that supports growth and innovation in businesses.

Beth Sowersby

Knowledge Exchange Fellow- Digital Creative

University of East Anglia

With a background in the media industry, Beth has 20 years’ experience working in broadcasting, where she produced and developed programmes for all of the major UK broadcasters. Now working in Higher Education, Beth’s role is based around business engagement, building relationships within the digital creative industry and working on projects directly linking academics and students with industry.

Stephen Knock

Operations Manager

University of East Anglia

Stephen has operational oversight of the EIRA project at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and works closely with colleagues across the EIRA network. Stephen has over 15 years’ experience working in the higher education sector, most recently at UEA managing relationships with partner organisations of the University offering validated awards. Having completed a Master’s degree in Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, Stephen has a keen interest in the use of technology, particularly in the areas of AI, big data and information visualisation.

Jeremy Davenport

Knowledge Exchange Fellow - Digital Creative

University of Essex

Jeremy’s career has spanned the public and private sectors working as an economist, manager and researcher. Over the last 12 years his roles have centred on knowledge exchange across the creative industries, facilitating and sustaining relationships between academics, businesses, public and third sector organisations in support of innovation in product, service and method. Facilitating and enabling knowledge transfer has been the thread throughout his professional life, both internationally and in supporting the creation and development of the Knowledge Transfer Network for the Creative Industries (Innovate UK). Most recently, Jeremy completed his PhD at Lancaster University, exploring the theory and practice of knowledge exchange and focusing on understanding complex collaborations at the interface between the Arts, Humanities and the wider creative economy.

Ed Cappabianca

Knowledge Exchange Lead – Biotechnology

University of Essex

Ed leads on the biotechnology theme at the University of Essex and brings a wealth of experience to the team from his time spent working in the finance and biotechnology sectors. With his undergraduate degree in biochemistry, Ed then gained his MBA from the Wharton School in Philadelphia to further his career in the finance sector, specializing in capital raising and M&A for bioscience and med-tech companies. Ed has also worked with many start-ups and now supports biotechnology projects as part of the EIRA project.

Dr Kirstie Cochrane

EIRA Director

University of Essex

Kirstie gained her PhD in Food Science from the University of Reading, following which she worked for the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control as a microbiologist and then in their commercial development function. She spent three years at King’s College London as a Business Development Manager with a focus on health-related research, before joining the University of Essex as a Knowledge Exchange Manager for Life Science, where she was responsible for business development and engagement, the IP portfolio and technology transfer activity. As EIRA Director, Kirstie oversees the Connecting Capabilities Fund grant that enables EIRA to provide businesses with ground-breaking knowledge exchange opportunities.

John Sanderson

Programme Manager

University of Essex

With a background in data and intelligence analysis, John is a skilled problem solver with experience in leading and managing successful projects and teams. Prior to joining EIRA, John held several roles at Suffolk County Council before joining the Administrative Data Research Network as Deputy Director (Research and Data Services). As EIRA’s Programme Manager, John is responsible for developing the project plan and co-ordinating the activities of the EIRA programme.

Lisa Gibbs

Engagement and Communications Officer

University of Essex

Lisa joined the University of Essex in 2015 in the Employability and Careers Centre with employer engagement, marketing and events as the focus of her role, including delivering the University’s annual Careers Fair. Her previous experience includes community filmmaking and managing digital media projects around the East of England. Lisa’s role on the EIRA team is to co-ordinate the central marketing and communications of the project and deliver a range of networking and engagement events.

Sharon Bell

Administrator

University of Essex

Sharon joined the University of Essex in 2014, supporting the ADRN Administrative Data Service before joining the Research and Enterprise Office in 2018. As part of the EIRA team, Sharon provides key administrative support to the EIRA project.


Steering Group

Dr Kirstie Cochrane

EIRA Director

University of Essex

Kirstie gained her PhD in Food Science from the University of Reading, following which she worked for the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control as a microbiologist and then in their commercial development function. She spent three years at King’s College London as a Business Development Manager with a focus on health-related research, before joining the University of Essex as a Knowledge Exchange Manager for Life Science, where she was responsible for business development and engagement, the IP portfolio and technology transfer activity. As EIRA Director, Kirstie oversees the Connecting Capabilities Fund grant that enables EIRA to provide businesses with ground-breaking knowledge exchange opportunities.

Vanessa Cuthill

Director, Research Enterprise Office

University of Essex

Vanessa Cuthill is the Director of the Research and Enterprise Office at the University of Essex. Her team is responsible for leadership of commercialisation, business engagement and knowledge exchange, as well as research grant development and costings, research collaborations and impact development. She took up this post in September 2016 having previously worked in various senior roles in UK Research Councils and the Higher Education sector.

Professor Christine Raines

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research)

University of Essex

Christine’s research interests are in the area of plant molecular physiology focusing on photosynthesis. Christine graduated with B.Sc. (Hons) Agricultural Botany, First Class from Glasgow University, following which, she studied for a Ph.D. in photosynthetic electron transport. In 1988, Christine was appointed to a faculty position at the University of Essex, being promoted to Professor in 2004. Christine was Head of the School of Biological Sciences from 2011 – 2017 and is currently Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research. Her current research is aimed at improving the yield of crops by re-engineering photosynthetic carbon metabolism and electron transport.

Christine also holds a number of external roles, including Editor in Chief, for the Journal of Experimental Botany and President of the Society of Experiment Biology.

Dr Rob Singh

Deputy Director (Enterprise) Research and Enterprise Office

University of Essex

Rob leads the Enterprise Team at University of Essex, helping to use university expertise to solve real world business problems. The Essex team can offer innovating businesses a wide range of solutions, from award-winning Knowledge Transfer Partnerships to consultancy and contract research.

Helen Lewis

Director, Research and Innovation Division

University of East Anglia

Helen has over 16 years’ experience in Higher Education, having worked as Director of Administration at UEA’s Faculty of Medicine, and as Change Management Consultant at St George’s, University of London. In her current role as Director of Research and Innovation Division at the University of East Anglia, Helen is responsible for research and innovation services, The Enterprise Centre, Low Carbon Innovation Fund and Invest East. She holds board positions with the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor, and New Anglia LEP Innovation. Helen gained an MBA from Warwick Business School in 2010.

Carole Barron

Director, Innovation and Enterprise

University of Kent

Carole is responsible for the strategic development of innovation and enterprise at the University of Kent and has extensive experience of working in partnership with a wide range of businesses and stakeholders. She is a Board member of several businesses and sits on local and regional partnership boards. She is also President of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce and has recently been appointed a Fellow of the Higher Education Leadership Foundation.

Richard Tunnicliffe

Regional Director

CBI

Richard holds an MBA with specialist focus in organisational management. As Regional Director for the Confederation for British Industry, (CBI), Richard is responsible for managing member relations, growing CBI’s presence in the East of England, strategic development and engagement with key external stakeholders.

Stefanie Thorne

Head of Business Engagement and Entrepreneurship

University of Suffolk

Stef leads research, postgraduate research, and business engagement activities across the University, in addition to the development of the Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre (IWIC). A member of several steering groups and partnership projects committed to growth and development within the region, she is passionate about the development of the East of England and the importance of business and higher education working together to improve lives.

Will Allanson

Vice-Principal

Harlow College

After a 20 year career within the construction industry, Will joined the Further Education Sector as Construction and Built Environment Lecturer. Since then he has held several leadership roles including Departmental Head for Construction, Building Services & Engineering and Head of Apprenticeship programmes. Will has also held positions leading on business and curriculum development, developing programmes to support local businesses. Will’s current position is Deputy Principal at Harlow College.

Dr Rob Gowers

Senior Lecturer & Business Development Manager

Writtle University College

After gaining his PhD in economics from the University of Essex, Rob worked for four years with PricewaterhouseCoopers, based in the City of London. His time there included work with their Strategic Risk Services group, who helped senior executives identify, understand, assess and manage the business risks they faced across their whole enterprise. His roles within this group included direct consulting work on a wide range of client engagements, applying economic theory in solving strategic risk problems, constructing economic models in relation to the services on offer and developing academic partnerships. With 14 years’ experience as a Senior Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, Rob is now Senior Lecturer and Business Development Manager at Writtle University College.

Sarah Steed

Business Director

Norwich University of the Arts

As Director of Innovation and Engagement for NUA, Sarah is responsible for the University’s relationships with business and the world of employment. Sarah’s career prior to NUA was in innovation in Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) markets, and she has brought this innovative approach to the area of sector-specific business support, developing new models for internships and training delivery after graduation to meet business needs. Sarah’s network encompasses a broad range of creative specialist areas, from Fine Art through to Games Design. She works to connect academic practitioners with business partners for innovative knowledge exchange.