Professor Joan Farrer chats about her past research and visions for the future

Professor Joan Farrer RCA FRSA was appointed as the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries Associate Dean (Enterprise and Innovation) on 1 January 2015 and has since received her professorship in Design and Innovation.

Here she explains her role at the University and provides an insight into her career.

What are your ambitions for enterprise and innovation at the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI)?

As an applied researcher with a commercial industrial fashion and textiles background, my ambitions are to embed research into enterprise and innovation in the creative and cultural industries as, in my view, they are synergistic and not separate entities.

What do you see as the key challenges for enterprise and innovation within CCI over the next five years?

The key challenges are to keep current, maintain investment, attract new learners, and raise the profile and importance of the creative and cultural industries from a national and international perspective. Developing enterprise and innovation projects combined with research, the challenge is to draw in significant funds to the University and Faculty and to develop, recognise and celebrate pro bono engagement. In addition, communicating the benefit of working with an entrepreneurial faculty using the raft of CCI skills with sectors to enhance enterprise, innovation and research collaborations, remains a challenge. Finally, to increase the volume of CCI research undertaken by practice-based PhD studentships.

Why do you think enterprise and innovation is important to a university like ours?

Enterprise, innovation and applied research collaborations are important to inform and give relevance to the variety of subjects taught in our University, leading to quality applicants, (both students and staff) and significant projects in the future. The ability to work across the University in trans disciplinary teams, towards real world solutions, is a rare opportunity. To enter innovative territories of investigation, and be nimble in that process, in a geographical and social location such as Portsmouth, where the University is at the beating heart of the city, is a unique selling point.

What innovation or business engagement achievement are you most proud of?

The business achievement I am most proud of led directly from my PhD thesis at the Royal College of Art. It was one of the first global supply chain analyses and it assessed the social, economic and environmental cost of producing one wool fibre cradle to cradle (circular approach to design – From Straw to Gold). This work led directly to Marks and Spencer commissioning an extensive confidential risk assessment business report from me, investigating their global clothing supply, production and disposal chains, via fibre type. This contributed to Marks and Spencer’s transparency for investors and the company became the first retailer to feature on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (Footsie4Good) in 2002.

What research achievement are you most proud of?

Since 2008, colleagues and I have been developing a research project entitled Barrier Solutions with computing, smart textiles, fashion and cancer researchers, which will seek EU funding and which was selected in 2014 as one of ‘20 new ideas from UK universities that will change the world’. Here the smart and sustainable textiles paradigm and applied research has fostered innovation and collaboration between design, science and business (D-STEM-B) in the field of wellbeing for the body and the built environment.

What was the first research project you were involved with?

The first formal research project I was involved in was as a sustainable textiles supply chain consultant with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and European Partners for the Environment on a European WorkWear manufacturing policy project with six EU countries, manufacturers, government and trade union representatives. This led to global purchasing International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards for institutional workwear.

Who were your research role models?

My research role models include the expert in popular culture, Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, who is determined to place design at the top table in research, innovation and enterprise discussions, and Professor of Materials Chemistry Sergey Mikhalovsky, Dean of Research, University of Kazakstan, who is visionary in his determination to combine science and design disciplines towards new areas of global research relevance.

What opportunities are there at Portsmouth for researchers to operate on a global stage?

Portsmouth could be branded as the launch pad to Europe. The opportunities are endless due to the transparent culture and ‘can do’ attitude in the University, which has excellent skill sets and facilities. We are entering into unchartered territory in enterprise, innovation and research in CCI where anything is possible if we become outward facing and celebrate, communicate and build upon our achievements.

Partnerships are also an area of potential growth. My experience of the textiles agenda over the last 20 years has seen the big partnerships with national and international industries, governments and education all moving toward a more smart andsustainable supply chain future. Now big clusters of UK and EU partners are through necessity being consolidated due to funding demands, such as Horizon 2020 and Interreg.

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