Project Excellence Award

Recognising the achievements of our post-graduate and early career researchers in making a difference with their PhD skills and expertise in the wider community.

Collaboration Labs creates collaborative opportunities and provides professional training to impact the wider community with innovative projects. The Project Excellence Award recognises excellent project management and impact achievements, via a final competition. The best project will be selected by the Collaboration Labs' Programme Board and will receive a monetary prize and a special publicity feature in recognition of their excellent results.

2021 Awards

In 2021, interdisciplinary teams of Humanities and Social Science researchers from universities across the North West worked with our local, national and international communities, in support of diversity in leadership, inclusive education, cultural engagement and urban food systems change.

The high quality of all submissions was noted by the judging panel, with all of the research projects working to address societal challenges and create positive change towards cultural engagement, better health, environmental sustainability and inclusion.

Here, we profile the Project Excellence Award 2021 winner and finalists.


Winner: SENDCode Team with 'A neurodiverse approach to evaluating goals and progress' project

Collaboration Labs programme has positively transformed me as a person and a researcher.


For the first time in my life, I felt that I could really apply my theoretical knowledge and expertise to help, support and generate viable and feasible solutions to a real problem. 

Maria Liashenko / Research Lead

The research team created a first of a kind, neurodiverse-friendly tool, in collaboration with SENDCode, a social enterprise supporting young autistic people to develop interpersonal, communication, employability and independent living skills.

With a focus on neurotypical priorities, existing measures of progress in personal and professional development fail to appreciate the diverse starting points, barriers and pathways of these learners, often posing significant literacy or processing challenges for ND people.

The innovative tool will offer invaluable support to socially isolated young ND people, most of whom have been out of education for a long time but have skills and interest in careers and training in the digital economy.

 The research team for our Collaboration Labs project have been exceptional. The tool they have developed through close interaction with our service users will provide us with insightful, person-centred impact information. The team showed amazing empathy and skill in handling thesocial interactions and gaining the opinions of young people who often feel as though nobody listens.


The tool will demonstrate the journeys they make with us and the fact that the process was 'done with' rather 'done to' the young people is a credit to the research team

Seamus Mannion / Founder, SENDCode CIC

Working together, Karen Leneh Buckle (The University of Manchester) and Maria Liashenko (Lancaster University) built the tool in light of their research into the values of ND young people on areas of life beyond education and employment, an original approach to the inclusion of marginalised communities. The team centred community voices and took guidance from ND young people for the creation of a more accessible and inclusive tool, while strengthening the voices, self-esteem and personal development of those involved in the research.

The research fills current research gaps around the wellbeing and progress of neurodiverse people and offers new insights into future service provision for the inclusion of marginalised communities.

Find out more about this research collaboration, here. 

I am very happy to confer the Project Excellence Award to the SENDCode team this year as Maria and Leneh have brought extraordinary passion and dedication to the project, together with excellent Social Sciences skills and expertise.


I am very proud of the new neurodiverse-friendly evaluation methodology they have designed, as this greatly enhances the important work SENDCode do in supporting people with talents and with additional needs to aspire to full time employment and a more fulfilling life. 

Dr Rosalinda Quintieri / Collaboration Labs Director

It was a real pleasure to be asked to judge the Collaboration Labs Award this year. It was incredibly challenging as all the entrants had submitted incredibly impressive applications across such a diverse range of fields. 

Lynn Sheppard / Director of the Masood Entrepreneurship Centre, The University of Manchester

These projects offer an exemplar of how university researchers can deliver socially responsible outcomes in relation to a wide range of cultural, social, political-economic and environmental challenges.

Dr Julian Skyrme / Director of Social Responsibility, The University of Manchester


2021 Finalists

collaboration with She Leads for Legacy – Research offering new insights and solutions into the barriers faced Black Professional Women in their career progression in the UK. 

collaboration with the British School at Rome – The research team created an interactive, digital exhibition to open up British School at Rome's fine arts collection to the public, combining innovative approaches to research, digital methods and creative writing for a unique experience. 


2020 Awards

The consultancy projects delivered in 2020 were of a very high quality, and have created social, cultural and economic benefits, in areas ranging from the arts and cultural sector to sexual health services, water management during lockdown to citizen-led environmental education. The Project Excellence Award judges were impressed by the innovative approaches to academic research and outstanding impact achievements of two research projects in particular.

Here, we profile the Collaboration Labs Project Excellence Award 2020 winners.

The Envirolution Revolution

The research team has done an incredible job of not only evaluating the impact of our project so far, but also enabled us to continue measuring our impact going forwards, using the template provided through their work.

Robert Vaughan Walley / Creative Engagement Director, Envirolution.

A research project in support of citizen-led environmental activism in Manchester.

In collaboration with Envirolution, a Manchester-based cooperative that promotes citizen-led environmental and social change through community engagement, this team of researchers demonstrated and furthered the impact of citizen-led environmental activism.
Envirolution had been hosting community engagement events for 10 years, interacting with 785 volunteers and 189,440 attendees of events over this time. Despite this significant engagement with a range of individuals, Envirolution as a group had never fully evaluated the impact of their action through these events.

The research team provided Envirolution, for the first time ever, with rich data on the impact of its community work; offering insight into how perceptions of climate change have been addressed and how they were reflected, transferred and assimilated into everyday lives as a result. Researchers also produced a toolkit for the continued evaluation of Envirolution’s activities, which will help to evidence and further impact in the future.

The research team presented their findings on Envirolution’s approach to community engagement at the Place-Based Climate Action Network Conference. These research findings were accepted for a publication on theory and practice on local climate action by Climate Praxis.

Research team

The project delivers a clear case for the role of place-based action and empowered community work in the fight against climate change and will support Envirolution’s future activities.

Professor Gabe Mythen / Director, ESRC North West Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership.
  • Debapriya Chakrabarti, PhD researcher in Architecture and Urban Studies (University of Manchester, School of Environment, Education and Development)
  • Eugene Boadu, PhD Researcher in Management (Keele University, Business School)
  • Abderrahim Nekkache, PhD Researcher in Business and Management (University of Manchester, Alliance Business School)
  • Ami Crowther, PhD Researcher in Human Geography (University of Manchester, School of Environment, Education and Development)
  • Rui Cepeda, PhD Researcher in Arts and Cultural Management (University of Manchester, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures)
  • Paloma Yañez Serrano, PhD Researcher in Social Anthropology with Visual Media (University of Manchester, School of Social Sciences)

Find out more about this collaboration, here.

LGBT Foundation

This is one of the first—if not the first—report of its kind in the UK. This means that the insight it provides will surely have a significant impact on the remote health promotion strategies of organisations and their communication with the communities they serve.

Lauren Duffy / Sexual Health Lead, LGBT Foundation.

LGBT+ sexual health service delivery during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Despite early reporting of the pandemic as a ‘great equalizer’, research has shown that its detrimental effects have been unevenly distributed among populations. In particular, both the virus and social distancing have had a disproportionate impact on LGBT people, who already suffer from higher rates of poor mental health, are more likely to live alone, and require more formal support services.

This Researcher-Led consultancy project demonstrates the excellent synergies that can be created between post-graduate research and the business community to add value to the wider community when at play are strong personal initiative, meaningful stakeholder engagement and punctual project management. Dr Garcia-Iglesias's research has created a real impact on the LGBT Foundation, who are now in a better position not only to adapt their service provision in view of the Covid-19 challenges but also to develop innovative digital solutions for years to come.

Dr Rosalinda Quintieri / Collaboration Labs Director.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, sexual and reproductive health and genitourinary medicine services saw a drastic reduction in capacity and a changed mode of operation. In light of this, LGBT Foundation transferred its services and activities online, and evidence suggests that there was an increase in the number of people who used its services. 

This project has collected people’s experiences of these services, their views of digital healthcare and desires for the future. It will now contribute to a national discussion on the possible routes towards a better and more inclusive ‘new normal’ for LGBT+ healthcare services. 

Research Lead

Jaime García-Iglesias, PhD Researcher in Sociology (The University of Manchester, School of Social Sciences).

Find out more about the collaboration, here.

Project Excellence Awards in the media 

Collaboration Labs success: Developing opportunities and training for PGRs
Student News Team, The University of Manchester, 30 November 2020.

Research into LGBT+ sexual health services during Covid-19 wins award 
- The 
University of Manchester Newsroom, 1 December 2020.

Collaboration Labs Project Excellence Award
- Social Responsibility News, University of Manchester, 2 December 2020.