Kersten England CBE joins Y-PERN

With her wealth of experience in local government leadership, Kersten will help to convene academic-policy engagement networks and co-steer Y-PERN’s strategic direction more broadly.

The Yorkshire and Humber Policy Engagement and Research Network (Y-PERN) is changing how researchers and policymakers work together to develop inclusive, place-based policies across the region. It gathers all 12 universities and 18 local and combined authorities in Yorkshire and the Humber, supported by £6 million in Research England Development (RED) funding and institutional funding. Its flagship project YPIP (Yorkshire and Humber Policy Innovation Partnership) formally launched in February 2024 and is supported by £5 million from UKRI and ESRC.

Kersten England CBE will now join the Y-PERN Directorate and will be based with Yorkshire Universities (YU), which is a key partner organisation for Y-PERN and Y-PIP. Kersten already holds the position of co-director of YPIP.

Kersten speaks at the annual UPEN
conference in York

Professor Andy Brown, Y-PERN Academic Director, comments: “Kersten joins Y-PERN at a particularly exciting juncture of the project as we accelerate activity around our growing number of academic-policy engagement networks. With her unique background and direct links to senior officers and leaders in Yorkshire and Humber, I’ve no doubt that Kersten will make an immensely valuable contribution to both YPIP and Y-PERN.”

Dr Peter O’Brien, Y-PERN Policy Director and YU Executive Director, said: “I am delighted that Kersten is joining the Y-PERN Directorate, given her pivotal role in developing the policy engagement infrastructure on which Y-PERN and Y-PIP are founded, as well as the insights and connections she brings to academic policy engagement.”

Professor Gary Dymski, Y-PERN Strategy Director, commented: “Our shared co-directorship of YPIP will permit a unified YPIP-Y-PERN approach to building more inclusive and sustainable communities across Yorkshire. Kersten’s eminence in regional policy and initiatives focused on addressing inequality ensures that our developing experiment in university-public-sector-community collaboration will be a template for the future of policy development in the nation as a whole.”

Kersten England CBE adds: “Y-PERN and YPIP represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive a step-change in the way we collaborate and co-create innovative policy solutions that will have a real impact on the people of Yorkshire and Humber – and potentially even serve as a model for other parts of the country. I look forward to working with the wider team and seeing what we can achieve together.”

A wealth of experience

Kersten currently serves as Chair of Bradford 2025 (UK City of Culture) and Chair of the Young Foundation – having recently stepped down as Chief Executive of Bradford Council and Chair of Yorkshire & Humber Councils. She has over 30 years of experience in local government leadership across Kirklees, Calderdale and York.

As part of her role on Y-PERN’s Directorate, she will facilitate linkages between Y-PERN and Y-PIP initiatives and officers and elected representatives of local and combined authorities in the Yorkshire and Humber region. She will also help in convening the growing number of academic-policy engagement networks, including the region’s four National Institute for Health and Care Research Health Determinants Research Collaborations (HDRCs), which use research findings to understand how decisions impact on health and health inequalities.

Making a difference on inclusive growth and sustainability: YPIP launches

Members of the YPIP team

Reflecting on the recent launch of the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Innovation Partnership (YPIP)funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the wider Local Policy Innovation Partnerships (LPIPs) programme to address regional inequalities around the UK.

Over the past decade, investment in university policy engagement has enhanced the capacity of researchers and institutions to deliver real benefits and growth for citizens and communities across the country. This has been achieved through the gathering of knowledge and insight to support policymaking as well as the cross-pollination of ideas and sharing of expertise between a range of public, private and community stakeholders at local, regional and national levels.

This significant investment in the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Innovation Partnership (YPIP) will further harness the power of research and innovation across our region. YPIP has adopted ‘communities in their places’ as its cross-cutting theme. This will involve building structures and processes that empower low-income, marginalised and geographically isolated communities across the region. Given this overarching focus, YPIP will undertake initiatives in three substantive areas.

“We want to make a difference on the inclusive growth and sustainability living challenges facing people across the region.”

Professor Gary Dymski, YPIP Principal Investigator

A stepwise approach to change

First, in laying the foundations for change, YPIP is currently working with local authorities, the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission (YHCC) and Yorkshire & Humber Policy Engagement & Research Network (Y-PERN) to create an integrated Data Informatics Hub for the region. YPIP will then develop the Yorkshire Engagement Portal as an ‘active’ platform for stakeholder engagement, especially from community members.

Second, with a focus on supporting inclusive growth, YPIP will adopt ‘What works’ inclusive business practices. This will be achieved through the creation of business partnerships and networks that can spread inclusive practices across the region. Support will also be provided for younger residents who are intent on building careers via the creative economy and entrepreneurship, using Bradford2025 ‘UK City of Culture’ as an entry point to develop region-wide inclusive networks. 

Members of the YPIP team at the LPIP launch in central London in February

Third, to support sustainable living, YPIP and YHCC will work together to identify cost-effective retrofit interventions for a range of places and building types, generating standards that can unlock net zero carbon and climate readiness measures. Place-based demonstrators of Net Zero initiatives will also be undertaken.

Collaborate to innovate

Overall, YPIP represents a concerted effort by a unique team of collaborating institutions, organizations, and individuals across Yorkshire and the Humber. Professor Gary Dymski of Leeds University Business School at the University of Leeds is the principal investigator and is working closely with YPIP co-director Kersten England, chair of Bradford2025, board chair of the Young Foundation and appointee of (as well as former executive director of) the Yorkshire and Humber Leaders Board.

Importantly, YPIP will bring together a team of 24 co-investigators (16 drawn from the 12 universities of Yorkshire and Humber region, four representing different local authorities, three representing community-based organizations and one representing the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission). They will use co-production, co-design, and co-delivery methods to mobilise the collaborative potential of our communities and businesses, thus enhancing our region’s voice, productivity and long-term capacity.

To oversee and advise on its activities, YPIP will also have a board of directors comprised of business, university, third-sector and community leaders. As well as Y-PERN and YHCC, other regional partner organisations working with YPIP include Yorkshire Universities, Yorkshire and Humber Councils, the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration Yorkshire and Humber and the Yorkshire Asian Business Association.

The national picture

YPIP’s activities got underway in January 2024 and will come to a close by December 2026. It will be funded by UKRI, with important contributions from the participating universities and other organizations. YPIP is one of four pilot Local Policy Innovation Partnerships (LPIPs) being initiated in the UK. In addition to YPIP, there are LPIP initiatives in each of the three devolved nations: Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. An LPIP Coordinating Hub, also funded by UKRI, is located at the University of Birmingham.

Commenting on the launch of YPIP, Principal Investigator, Professor Gary Dymski, commented: “All the members of our YPIP team are excited that we’ll have the opportunity to make a difference for the communities, councils and businesses of Yorkshire and the Humber.

“We are a vast region with a diverse population that resides in spaces ranging from remote rural hamlets to dense inner-city neighbourhoods. Our plan is ambitious: we want to make a difference on the inclusive growth and sustainability living challenges facing people across its length and breadth. YPIP gives our 12 Yorkshire universities some resources to use in this common effort.”

Key report sets out plan to tackle regional health inequalities

White Paper Cover

Devolving health powers and investment to local areas is key to tackling health and economic inequalities between Yorkshire and other parts of the UK, according to the findings of a new white paper.

The paper was delivered by Health Innovation Yorkshire & Humber, Yorkshire Universities and the NHS Confederation and lists 10 key recommendations to narrow the widening health and economic gap.

Chief among those recommendations is that central government should devolve more health powers to local places so that solutions can be found that meet the needs of local people and communities.

Notably, the report highlights the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Engagement and Research Network (Y-PERN) as an example of a Yorkshire-wide collaboration that is sharing evidence and best practice.

The report reads: “A cornerstone of Y-PERN … is bringing evidence-based rationale to influence policymaking for excluded and marginalised communities. The significance of this for health in the region is that it can act as an exemplar for how the extensive research facilities of Yorkshire Universities can be utilised by policymakers to improve health outcomes based on a proper understanding of the challenges faced, robust evidence and insights.”

A ’perfect test bed’ for innovation

The latest white paper, entitled Empowering Local Places for Health and Prosperity draws on data showing that health and economic inequalities across Yorkshire and Humber – which has the third lowest life expectancy in England – have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The white paper argues that meaningful devolution that allows local leaders to lead is the best way to tackle health inequalities and economic inactivity that currently cost the UK £180bn a year.

The paper highlights that Yorkshire’s diverse geography, economy and population and strong partnerships between public bodies, the health sector, universities, businesses, and others make it the “perfect test bed for piloting new approaches and innovations” that could be replicated and scaled up elsewhere in the country.

It also identifies the important role of universities and businesses in supporting health and economic prosperity as part of broad-based local partnerships.

As a region home to 37,000 students studying medicine or health-related subjects, Yorkshire’s universities are well-placed to meet ambitious targets set out in the NHS’s Long-Term Workforce Plan to double the number of medical school places in England and increasing adult nursing training places by 92%.

With NHS vacancies – particularly nursing jobs – at an all-time high, one of the white paper’s top recommendations is for health service leaders and the government to work more closely with universities to remove barriers to student recruitment in health-related subjects.

Professor Karen Bryan OBE, Chair of Yorkshire Universities, comments:

“Action to deliver on the NHS Workforce Plan ambitions has been slow to materialise, which is concerning given the scale of the workforce crisis the NHS is facing. I’m pleased that this white paper recognises the crucial role of universities in meeting the targets in the Workforce Plan, including boosting student recruitment, providing capital investment to improve training capacity, extending and diversifying placements and practice-learning, and tackling health student and early-career attrition.

“It also reinforces the importance of collaborative initiatives such our Yorkshire Policy Engagement and Research Network (Y-PERN), which unites our academics with policymakers and communities to ensure they are armed with evidence about what the economy and their communities really need to thrive.”

Read the full report here: 

Trailblazing Yorkshire Based Project Linking Academics With Policymakers And Communities Awarded £5m Funding

A trailblazing Yorkshire-based project, which includes a new data portal giving communities vital information, and major climate change initiative, has secured £5m funding.

The project, the only one to be funded in England, and one of just four in the UK to be awarded UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) investment, will be delivered between now and December, 2026 after a successful bid led by The University of Leeds on behalf of Yorkshire Universities – an innovative partnership of twelve higher education institutions – and other public, private and community sector organisations based in the region.

The funding, part of UKRI’s work to create opportunities and improve outcomes locally, and spread over three years, will enable the region’s academics to work directly in the field with community groups and policymakers on a series of research areas across Yorkshire and Humber identified as priorities in an extensive pre-bid consultation exercise.

It will be delivered by a consortium working together as the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Innovation Partnership (Y-PIP) – which comprises all Yorkshire Universities’ members plus, local and mayoral combined authority representatives, the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Engagement and Research Network (Y-PERN), the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission (YHCC), Yorkshire and Humber Applied Research Collaboration, and, crucially, local community groups.

Today, delighted officials at Yorkshire Universities said the new funding would enable its members and partners to build on the success of existing work with Y-PERN, and confirmed that the funded activities under Y-PIP will include:

  • A new Yorkshire and Humber Office of Data Analytics – which will be managed by the University of Sheffield, with support from Y-PERN, YHCC and other universities, to give the public and organisations access to up-to-date, reliable and easy to digest data about the region’s evolving economic, social, and environmental status.

The team will build a Yorkshire Engagement Portal, which will feature vital indicators, including health and deprivation measures, employment statistics, such as salaries and workforce demographics, education, ranging from free school meals data to attainment, air quality and housing stock.

Real-time data and information analytics will ensure local communities are given ‘a voice’ to work with policymakers to coordinate initiatives. Crucially, data will be updated regularly based on the needs and research undertaken with community groups, businesses, councils, and the voluntary sector.

  • The UKRI funding will also help create an Inclusive Business Network and drive inclusive growth in the region.

Extensive stakeholder engagement and roundtable events will be held with employers, business groups, chambers of commerce and community groups across the region to provide an in-depth understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced by businesses in attracting and retaining greater diversity of talent.

The research will examine inclusive business practices – how companies recruit and serve – and how improvements can be made in the workplace to mental health and well-being, recruitment, retention, and flexible working. Initially focused on Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham, the project will be rolled out across the wider region, and will be led by Sheffield Hallam University, experts in this field.

  • Sustainable Living in a Greener Economy – there will also be a major climate change initiative examining key regional challenges of cutting carbon emissions while reducing inequality and improving wellbeing.

Led by the YHCC, and including the University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute, and Leeds Sustainability Institute, based at Leeds Beckett University, and working in tandem with community groups and policy makers, this strand of Y-PIP will examine how heritage buildings can meet Net Zero targets and be more energy efficient without damaging structures or impinging on their character. The work will initially be piloted in the City of York and in the rural areas of North Yorkshire, given the number of historical buildings in this part of the region, before being rolled out to other parts of Yorkshire and the Humber.

  • Creative Economy Pilot in Bradford – Ahead of its Capital of Culture year in 2025, this project will examine how Bradford, the youngest city in Europe, can bring greater diversity and dynamism to and within local creative industries.

This work will explore how artisans and entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups in Bradford can create start-ups, establish business clusters, develop region-wide networks and access new funding within the arts and creative industries. The findings and lessons from the project will be rolled out to other parts of the region. Support will also be provided for younger residents who are intent on building careers via the creative economy and entrepreneurship. The University of Bradford will facilitate links with local networks and host events.

Ahead of the successful Y-PIP bid, an extensive consultation exercise took place. Workshops were held across Yorkshire, which saw 38 public sector, 22 private sector and 30 voluntary and community sector representatives, including residents from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds to identify shortfalls, agree priorities and share experiences around the key issues ranging from employment to health and well-being. This work led to the decision to ensure that communities were embedded firmly within Y-PIP.

  • At the heart of Y-PIP will be a community panel – comprised of 12 members with diverse experiences of disadvantage, marginalisation or isolation – who will have their voices heard by key policymakers and researchers in the region.

The ‘communities in their places’ cross-cutting theme will run throughout Y-PIP and it will link together all the different elements of the programme. The University of Hull will play a leading role in steering this novel and innovative work. Y-PIP will resource communities to be equal partners in place-based policy making as a key stepping stone to achieving communities’ inclusion in collaborative regional governance.

Professor Karen Bryan OBE, Chair of Yorkshire Universities, said:

This is a brilliant example of Yorkshire Universities’ core mission to promote and use research and evidence that relates directly to the issues that matter to communities, businesses and policymakers in the region. This pioneering research project, working in tandem with the existing Y-PERN infrastructure, and building on our strategic partnership with Yorkshire and Humber Councils, will see academics work in partnership with communities to identify policy and practical solutions to help overcome social and economic barriers to learning, jobs and community cohesion, and to realise the many opportunities that Yorkshire has to offer.

Note to Editors

About Yorkshire Universities

Comprising a powerhouse of 12 academically flourishing and esteemed higher education institutions – Yorkshire Universities champions the power and potential of Yorkshire as a place where graduates, communities and businesses thrive and enhances the region’s global connections and aspirations by encouraging stronger partnerships between academia and key policymakers.

Since its foundation in 1987, YU has had an unflinching pledge from its members – Leeds Arts University, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Conservatoire, Leeds Trinity University, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Bradford, University of Huddersfield, University of Hull, University of Leeds, University of Sheffield, University of York, and York St John University – to maximise research funding opportunities for trailblazing collaborations, share best practice, and innovative ideas and use its combined voice to champion the region locally, nationally and globally to ensure Yorkshire continues to flourish and maximise social and economic opportunities. You can read more about YU HERE.

About Y-PIP

Y-PIP is the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Innovation Partnership. It is one of four Local Policy Innovation Partnerships (LPIPs) funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) across the UK.

Key partners in Y-PIP are the twelve higher education members of Yorkshire Universities, local and mayoral combined authority members of Yorkshire and Humber Councils, the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Engagement and Research Network (Y-PERN), the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, Yorkshire and Humber Applied Research Collaboration, and local community groups.

The University of Leeds will manage the project on behalf of the consortium, which will be led by Professor Gary Dymski from Leeds University Business School.

Y-PIP is designed to empower communities across the region, particularly low income, marginalised and/or spatially isolated communities.

LPIPs aim to address social, community, economic and environmental priorities that contribute towards inclusive sustainable economic growth by connecting local policy and research partners.

About Yorkshire & Humber Policy Engagement & Research (Y-PERN) and how Y-PIP fits in

Y-PERN is a three-year (2022-25) pilot project to widen and deepen collaboration within and across Yorkshire’s 15 local authorities and 2 combined authorities and researchers based at the 12 higher education institutions that are members of Yorkshire Universities. The priority area of focus in Y-PERN is to help develop inclusive local economic strategies and policy by drawing on the broad range of expertise across Yorkshire and underpinned by a team of Policy Fellows based across the region. In practical terms, this means bringing in expertise from across a range of specialisms – economy, climate, health, education, biodiversity, etc – as well as communities and those with lived experiences, to inform economic development. The project is funded through the Research England Development Fund.

Y-PIP will provide significant new resources to commission, construct and implement research jointly between researchers, policymakers and communities, which the Y-PERN infrastructure will help to accelerate and to disseminate.

About UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

Big challenges demand big thinkers – those who can unlock the answers and further our understanding of the important issues of our time. Our work encompasses everything from the physical, biological and social sciences, to innovation, engineering, medicine, the environment and the cultural impact of the arts and humanities. In all these areas, our role is to bring together the people who can innovate and change the world for the better. We work with the government to invest over £8 billion a year in research and innovation by partnering with academia and industry to make the impossible, possible. Through the UK’s nine leading academic and industrial funding councils, we create knowledge with impact.

Originally posted on Yorkshire Universities