Connected Places Catapult provides impartial ‘innovation as a service’ for mobility and built environment businesses, infrastructure providers and public institutions to catalyse step-change improvements in the way people live, work and travel.
The Catapult opened a hub at the University of Leeds’ Nexus campus in 2018, formalising a Deep Academic Alliance that sees the two organisations collaborate on initiatives which progress research from discovery to implementation and forges closer links between the Catapult, the University and industry in the region.
To spark these collaborations, Connected Places Catapult part funds a Research and Innovation Development Manager at the University of Leeds. This individual – one of 15 ‘Business Fellows’ located across UK universities – provides a bridge between the University and Connected Places Catapult, identifying and incubating opportunities for research from Leeds to be brought into the Catapult projects.
One area of close collaboration is virtual reality and simulation. The University of Leeds and the wider innovation ecosystem of the Leeds City Region have rich expertise in these digital technologies, which have been deployed in successive Catapult-convened projects related to connected and autonomous vehicles. As a further investment to the virtual reality facilities at the University, Connected Places Catapult permanently relocated its 360° virtual reality ‘Omnideck’ to the hub, bringing the Catapult even closer to a host of Northern, other UK and international companies who are working in this high growth sector.
More recently, the collaboration has expanded into digital twins of the built environment, a major area of focus for connected places innovators.
From its hub at the University of Leeds, Connected Places Catapult extends its support across Yorkshire and the North. In January 2020, Connected Places Catapult joined West Yorkshire Innovation Network’s core stakeholder group, led by the Local Enterprise Partnership, to help shape a proposed devolution deal. In 2021 Connected Places Catapult worked in partnership with Slingshot Simulations – a major Leeds SME success story, Nexus and the University of Leeds to co-author a thought leadership position paper on the growth challenges and opportunities facing regional SMEs.
The partnership with University of Leeds is one of six Deep Academic Alliances the Catapult has with UK universities active in relevant technologies and research.