York Science Park's Catalyst in top spot for University of York talent

Pictured outside The Catalyst left to right are: Steve Brewer, Daniel Edmondson, Fraser Anderson, Aiste Kiskyte, Tom Watson, Anthony Main, Savitri Pandey.

Pictured outside The Catalyst left to right are: Steve Brewer, Daniel Edmondson, Fraser Anderson, Aiste Kiskyte, Tom Watson, Anthony Main, Savitri Pandey.

Updated in Business news

YORK is seeing a growth in its technology industry as stronger ties are being forged between businesses and academic expertise in the city.

Such relationships have been growing between businesses operating from York Science Park's Catalyst building and the University of York’s Department of Computer Science.

Businesses have reported forming useful partnerships with Computer Science academics, while also tapping into knowledge by offering internships and work experience to University students.

Computer Science students in their turn are building their CVs and gaining business experience, with some placements turning into paid jobs.

Tracey Smith, managing director of York Science Park, said: "We are really pleased to act as a conduit to building relationships between students and business enabling networking and knowledge transfer.

"The ability for companies based at The Catalyst, as well as the entire science park, to tap in to the wealth of knowledge within the University not only benefits the business but also the York economy as a whole."

Professor Jim Woodcock, head of the University’s Department of Computer Science, said: "We are one of the UK’s leading Computer Science departments and our teaching helps prepare our graduates for the workplace.

"We do this by working closely with industry, thus ensuring we keep up with emerging trends in such a fast-moving and dynamic sector.

"Through this collaboration, savvy businesses tap into a wealth of young talent, offering students internships and work experience resulting in their cherry-picking future employees.

"But the icing on the cake is that they form mutually profitable long-term partnerships with their Computer Science academic neighbours."

York companies that reported gaining benefits from the close physical proximity between The Catalyst and the University’s Department of Computer Science include Text Mining Solutions, Gradintel and The Distance.

A speculative inquiry about work experience by Savitri Pandey, a York Computer Science Masters graduate, led to a full-time job with Text Mining Solutions (TMS) in July 2013.

Since then, the company which began in the Springboard at the Ron Cooke Hub, before moving into The Catalyst building, has offered an internship and work experience to other York students.

Steve Brewer, director at TMS, which has designed software for reviewing literature and identifying actionable insights using text mining principles, said: “We have benefited from a very productive relationship with the Computer Science Department and it was no coincidence that we chose to locate our business next door to such a rich source of knowledge, business support and talent, and we look forward to employing more graduates from the Department in future.

“This arrangement has rewards for both parties and most importantly resonates with our customers by addressing their unmet needs through the introduction of well designed new products and services into diverse markets.”

Through the University of York Student Internship Bureau, TMS taps into student talent for bespoke new product development projects.

In June, Daniel Edmondson, a third year student on the MMath Degree course in Mathematics and Computer Science, spent three weeks with the company on work experience.

TMS’s Steve Brewer is also working closely with researchers at the University, looking at areas such as intellectual property and joint bids for EU funding.

Like many developing companies, Gradintel.com spent its early years as a virtual organisation with employees connected across the globe by the internet and collaborative technology.

However, when the software development company needed to accelerate business growth and establish a base, it moved to the Catalyst at York Science Park.

Gradintel has created a new data source using the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), which can be adopted by universities to record academic and non-academic achievements, and by students to capture further experiences, achievements and their psychometric profiles. The aim is to provide a comprehensive talent picture to prospective employers and institutions.

Gradintel moved into The Catalyst in January and has already developed close relationships with a number of University departments, including Computer Science.

This was cemented with agreement on a Small Innovation Project - a new scheme by the European Regional Development Fund and Yorkshire Innovation Fund designed to help university academics and small businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber to collaborate.

Gradintel also plans to apply for funding for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership next year to work with the University on the planning and development of mobile applications for their employer matching service.

The company is currently expanding its software development team and hopes to attract several graduating York students as full-time employees.

It has also recently taken on its first student intern Aiste Kiskyte, who is in the third year of a four-year MEng in Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence.

Fraser Anderson, director at Gradintel said: "Collaboration is a vital part of thriving within the university community. We intend to make best use of the numerous opportunities presented, but also want to reciprocate by putting something back into the local community in the shape of new jobs, paid work experience and advice/guidance to students and graduates."

An ever-growing client list and an expanding staff saw creative digital agency The Distance move out of The Catalyst into new offices in Skeldergate in the heart of the city in February this year.

But the move has not meant an end to engagement with the University.

For the past three years The Distance’s founder Anthony Main has run the App Challenge in partnership with the University’s Careers team.

A course for all registered University of York students interested in creating the next big app, the annual event is designed to encourage growth in the emerging mobile industry.

Mr Main said: "While students gain a lot of knowledge and skills from taking part in the App Challenge, it also allows us to interact with students and find out what they are interested in and what they have to offer. A number of the participants in the App Challenge have gone on to work for us on a freelance basis or become employees."

The Distance started life in 2012 at the York Science Park’s purpose-built incubation space, Springboard, before moving across to The Catalyst. It specialises in ecommerce, mobile apps and digital marketing, working with a wide range of clients, from large organisations such as the NHS and Moshi Monsters, through to local York SMEs.

York Computer Science graduates working for The Distance include Tom Watson, who has just joined the company after nearly two years with IBM., after working with The Distance while he was doing his degree.

While The Distance has employed a number of York Computer Science graduates on a freelance or permanent full-time basis, this summer will see a new direction with the employment of an intern from the Department of Computer Science.

- The York Press Business Awards features a Technology Business of the Year Title. New for 2014, the award is sponsored by insurance firm Hiscox and looks to uncover innovative digital talent in York and North Yorkshire. To apply visit www.yorkpress.co.uk/business/awards

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