The aspiration of the N8 Policing Research Partnership (N8 PRP) is to work with policing partners to transform the way research evidence is co-produced and used. Over the five year HEFCE Catalyst funded programme, N8 PRP has achieved this by harnessing skills, capabilities and resources from universities, police forces and others across the North to deliver at a scale and with real impact. The testimonies and case studies brought together in this report are themselves evidence of the importance of this type of collaborative funding to develop new relationships that can help us address challenges of social and technological change.
What these case studies and measurable impacts cannot capture, however, is the immense amount of social capital and other intangible benefits that have been generated by this programme. How can the value of the increased levels of trust between the policing partners and the academic researchers possibly be measured? Developing this trust was essential for the success of the collaboration, and the collaboration could only proceed at the speed that trust was built.
A key success factor for N8 PRP was to focus on taking the time and building the right structures to enable successful collaboration. The independent evaluation of the programme, undertaken recently by Birkbeck College , identified the establishment of an organisational infrastructure for N8 PRP as a significant achievement, pulling together the whole of the North for the first time to focus on helping to address the problems of policing in the 21st century. As we deal with another new demand on our policing partners, the global pandemic of Covid-19, the ability to mobilise, gather evidence and apply our learning at scale could not be more timely. Although it has not always been straightforward, a commitment on both sides to the co-production of research and to the values of the partnership has enabled significant strides to be made, with clear benefits for both sides. The police now have access to a significant concentration of research and expertise to support the development of evidence-based policing, and researchers have the opportunity to apply their work and better get to grips with the challenges of doing so in the real world. It is clear from what our policing colleagues tell us that moving to evidence-based policing still involves overcoming a number of hurdles, but that N8 PRP has contributed to creating a positive attitude towards its adoption.
Thinking about the numerous strands of activity that the partnership has undertaken over the past five years, I am impressed by the sheer breadth and variety of work that has been undertaken; from the extremely popular small grants scheme, to data sharing and analytics, staff exchanges and PhD studentships. The themes that have been addressed are significant and timely, including cybercrime, domestic abuse and mental health. I have also been delighted to see the partnership adopt and evolve the annual Policing Innovation Forum. The most recent event – which took place in Liverpool in November 2019 – exemplified the power of the forum approach and the ethos of the N8 as a whole. It brought together academics, police and a range of inspiring community organisations all seeking to tackle the problem of knife crime from a public health perspective.
It would be impossible to talk about the achievements of N8 PRP without mentioning the leadership of the outgoing Director, Professor Adam Crawford. Adam has steered the partnership successfully to its current position and, along with colleagues from each of the eight universities, the 11 police forces / PCCs and others, has laid a strong foundation for the next stage of its evolution. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank him for his dedication and vision over the past 7 years. Looking to the future, the partnership has agreed an exciting vision for the next phase of its development, based on deepening and extending the co-production ethos. This will be supported by a move to a model of co-governance and co-financing between the university and policing partners, including a co-leadership structure. I am delighted that Dr Geoff Pearson has been appointed as the new Academic Co-Director, following on from his successful stewardship of the Innovation Forum strand alongside his University of Manchester colleague and current Deputy Director, Dr Steve Brookes. I am also immensely pleased that the partnership will benefit from the dedicated leadership that Chief Superintendent Ngaire Waine will bring as the incoming Policing Co-Director. I know that Geoff and Ngaire are both excited about the challenges of leading the partnership and charting a course for its future direction.
The vision of the N8 Research Partnership as a whole is to be an exceptionally effective cluster of research, innovation and training excellence, delivering benefits to the economy and communities in the North of England and beyond. N8 PRP embodies this vision. It has grown over the last 7 years into a highly successful example of joint working across the North of England and beyond. I wish everyone involved with N8 PRP every success with their future collaborative endeavours.