· Local+ will see DMU academics working for Leicester City Council
· First projects will focus on health, smart cities and regeneration
· Expertise used to benefit the city and its residents
Academics will become consultants for the authority, applying their own and others’ research into health, technology, psychology and design to key strategic programmes being planned by the council.
The project, called Local+, takes the DMU Local initiative, which used student volunteers working with the city council on a series of community projects, a step further. DMU and Leicester City Council are each putting £50,000 into the project.
City mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This is the start of an exciting new partnership initiative. Academics will get the chance to see their work having a real-life impact, while the city council will benefit from the expertise that they bring.
“Working together in this way will help to drive innovation so that we can make Leicester an even better place to work and live. De Montfort University is a major resource for Leicester and I’m impressed with how deeply involved the university has already become in the life of our city.
“This is a wonderful step for further engagement. De Montfort University is a part of our community and we are very pleased to be working with them.”
Engaging communities about health programmes, smart cities and the built environment have been identified as the three keys areas for the first wave of project collaborations.
· Built environment – academics will work with their city colleagues on an emerging regeneration project in the Beaumont Leys and Abbey wards of the city to make better use of the urban space and increase the numbers walking and cycling to cut car journeys.
· Health community engagement – three areas of city will be identified and the communities involved in influencing public health provision, improving the health messages and the training of the health professionals in sexual health, mental health, obesity, physical inactivity and general well-being.
· Smart City Strategy – academics will work to develop a monitoring and evaluation package that can be used as a measure of Leicester City Council’s new strategy to improve people’s lives in the city through better use of digital technology.
Professor David Mba, Pro Vice-Chancellor Enterprise and Dean for the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Media, is the university’s lead on the project.
He said: “In the past, academics have worked with the local authority which has been reactive when needed. Local+ provides an opportunity to work with Leicester City Council in a long-term sustainable manner delivering projects that can bring huge benefits to the local community.”
The university will also benefit from the scheme with academics being provided with a major professional incentive through working on the Local+ projects.
Previous work by DMU academics collaborating with Leicester City Council has included Professor Bertha Ochieng’s work on childhood obesity, which has helped to inform the local authority’s policy and improve the health outcomes of youngsters in the city.