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Dr Tim Hammond’s retirement leaves a legacy of innovation and partnerships

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After 24 years at the University, Dr Tim Hammond, Managing Director of Research and Innovation Services, retires from his role on Wednesday 31 January.

Ahead of his departure, he spoke to Dialogue about his career and time at Durham which has seen so many changes…

Dr Tim Hammond
Dr Tim Hammond

Dr Hammond, what did you do before you came to Durham?

I started here in January 2000 and joined the University after working in industry. My career began at Durham after working as a technical manager at ICI, in a part of the business that later became part of AstraZeneca.

Tell us a little about your time at the University.

I first joined Durham to run a project to help companies access University support around environmental sustainability. We quickly realised that we needed to do a lot of wider work around technology transfer to ensure that the innovations we were working on could be transformed into new products and services that benefit society.

Subsequently, my role evolved, working closely with Professor Brian Tanner in  setting up the original technology transfer function at the University which I led from 2008.

The role then broadened and I became involved with partnerships that benefited both our own economic development and that of the wider region. I instigated and led on partnership working with manufacturer Procter and Gamble, which has been cited as an exemplar of how universities and industry should work together.

A large part of my role was to ensure that all the elements of partnership-working fitted together and to identify the range of opportunities along the way. Our work with Procter and Gamble throughout the years has helped to inform the general approach and thinking about how we grow strategic partnership activity across the University.

We also recognised that we needed to build a strong eco-system to support business and spin-out activities to help transform research at Durham into commercial activities. This led to the Northern Accelerator programme which became an innovative collaboration between the North East’s universities to commercialise research and boost the region’s economy.  

This has a significant impact on economic activity in the North East and helps to build a pipeline of strong commercial activity on the area. The Northern Accelerator has taken a lot of energy to grow through the various activities, development of funding streams and partnership activities, all of which has made the programme a key part of our regional economy.

Dr Tim Hammond with colleagues
Dr Tim Hammond with colleagues

In the last couple of years, I’ve taken on the role of Managing Director for RIS where, working with the co-Directors and colleagues across the Directorate , we have developed a strong structure, spending a lot of time on developing operating plans and ensuring we have the building blocks to meet income targets, and working with the business sector.

I’ve also been heavily involved with the NETPark development in Sedgefield and supporting this key science park for the region. This has included shaping its strategy and working on the University’s Orbit Enterprise Zone, which provides workspace for technology and science-focused businesses.

So all in all, quite a lot has changed over the past 24 years!

Have you enjoyed your time here?

It’s been a fantastic time at Durham. I’ve had the opportunity to develop new and exciting areas of work and had the freedom and flexibility to do so many things.

The University really is a good place to develop some impactful work and deliver on key strategic areas.

Working with a wide range of colleagues over the years, we’ve also had some fun times in amongst all the hard work. I remember one particular project where we were making foam plastics which involved acquiring equipment from a local caravan manufacturer and creating all kinds of products. This led to all sorts of wonderful, and weird ideas!

What do you see for RIS in the future?

Research and Innovation Services are a critical part of the University’s strategy. It’s got very firm foundations and a strong plan to work in partnership – both with colleagues from across the University and with external partners – to help deliver the strategy.

I know that colleagues in RIS are incredibly able and well-placed to deliver on those objectives, and working collectively with colleagues will deliver continued success for Durham.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m leaving the University while I’m still young and fit and I hope to have lots of time to do a variety of things I hadn’t previously had the opportunity to do.

I’ve spent the last 15 years renovating my farmhouse and I need to complete that. There are some outbuildings just awaiting my attention, so I’ll be doing the project management and getting involved in some of the building work too.

In the summer I’ll be walking Hadrian’s Wall with some friends which is all organised, so I’m ready to go! I’ll also be helping out with the three grandchildren which will definitely keep me busy, so there’ll be plenty of things going on.

Will you be keeping tabs on the work of your colleagues after you retire?

I’ll certainly be watching what’s happening at the University with interest, but just keeping an eye out from afar!

I’ve worked with some brilliant colleagues at Durham and although I won’t be working directly on projects, I’ll always be willing and very keen to help colleagues and discuss any issues they might have.

Throughout your career, what has been some of the best advice you’ve received?

I’m someone who takes on lots of things that I feel may be the right things to do. Though I think it’s important to look at priorities and ask yourself the question ‘has anyone actually asked me to do this?’. I’ve learnt a lot from industrial partners about how to take ideas forward and have been strongly influenced by the SUMO Guy and his way of looking at things that have gone wrong. It has helped to get things in perspective sometimes.

What would be your parting message to colleagues?

In my time at Durham, the University has transitioned into a strong anchor institution engaged with and supporting the regional economy. The present devolution deal presents a fantastic opportunity to take this activity to another level which I know that my successors are grasping with both hands. I look forward to seeing a number of these programmes come to fruition, maximising the tremendous impact of our international leading research upon our local communities.



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