The THE Awards - widely referred to as the ’Oscars of higher education’ - are the biggest celebration in the HE calendar, attracting hundreds of entries from individuals, teams and institutions from all corners of the UK and, for the first time this year, Ireland too. Nearly a thousand people gathered at the Hilton London Metropole hotel to celebrate the sector’s recent achievements, not least its outstanding response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In March 2020, the University of Glasgow responded to the unfurling Covid-19 crisis by establishing the UK’s biggest coronavirus testing centre. The Lighthouse Lab, located on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Campus, is one of the largest academic-run diagnostic facilities in the world and has processed more than 22 million COVID-19 tests since opening in April 2020, creating employment for some 800 people.
To develop the facility, the University worked with the drug discovery service company BioAscent and the University of Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit, whose experience of high-throughput compound screening was translated to develop high-throughput clinical testing.
Since May 2020, The Lighthouse has worked with BioClavis, a company based in the University’s Clinical Innovation Zone, to bring industry-standard processes and efficiencies, including the use of robotics, and support for the sequencing of Covid variants.
Judges were impressed by how the university had worked alongside the public and private sectors to create the Lighthouse Lab, commenting that it quickly became a "crucial resource in the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic."
"Each of the partners brought specific expertise and knowledge that allowed the rapid scaling of testing capabilities," they said, adding that they also recognised the "important role that the Lighthouse Lab played in providing employment and opportunities for reskilling to a local workforce heavily impacted by the pandemic".
Dr Carol Clugston, Dean of Corporate Engagement & Innovation and COO of the College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences, said: "Winning at the Times Higher Education Awards is an incredible recognition of all the many people and partners who have worked together seamlessly over the past few years with a shared vision to support our country’s NHS and pandemic response.
"Establishing the Lighthouse Lab was a huge collective effort, involving both public and private partners to make it possible, and we’ve worked with industry and academic collaborators, Scottish and UK governments and many more.
"As such, since April 2020, the staff at the Lighthouse Lab have played a vital role in the UK response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so to receive this honour is a wonderful recognition of the team’s efforts."
The lab is part of the University’s wider strategy in Govan to create sustainable economic impact in the region, through job creation, skills development and its ongoing relationship with industry partners and the NHS. On the same site at the QEUH campus, the University is developing the Living Laboratory, a £91m project aimed at bringing healthcare innovation and economic regeneration to Govan, Glasgow and beyond, made possible with £38m funding from UKRI’s Strength in Places fund.
The University of Glasgow’s Professor Willie Stewart was also acknowledged with Highly Commended for Research Project of the Year: STEM for his FIELD study into lifelong health outcomes in former professional footballers.