Making a Difference Award winners and highly commended 2023

We received over 130 entrants for our Making a Difference Awards 2023 and the judges had a very difficult job selecting a shortlist.

Below is a full list of all the winning and highly commended entrants in each of the categories. The winners and highly commended entrants were announced at our Awards ceremony on 11 May 2023.

Outstanding benefit to society through research


Professor John Radford, Dr Sacha Howell, Professor Richard Cowan, Dr Joanna Williams and Ms Elsita Payne

Revolutionising the screening of women at high risk of breast cancervane

This project established a national dataset of women with increased risk of developing breast cancer, the Breast screening After Radiotherapy Dataset (BARD). BARD has changed national policy and clinical practice and is the means by which women across England are now automatically offered screening at the right time improving patient access, outcomes and experience.

“It’s a great honour and it’s a great tribute to the work that the team has done. It really has been a team effort and highly collaborative, linking in with clinicians, not only in Manchester but around the country.”

Emerging impact winner

Adrian Parry-Jones, Lisa Brunton, Kate Woodward-Nutt and Emma McManus

Acute bundle of care for intracerebral haemorrhage

This project devised and led the Acute Bundle of Care (ABC care bundle) for Intracerebral Haemorrhage (ICH) patients. ICH is a devastating subtype of stroke affecting over 10,000 people in the UK each year. The care bundle was implemented at Salford Royal Hospital in 2015-16 and dramatically reduced 30-day ICH mortality by 33%, saving 24 lives per year.

“We were delighted to receive a Making a Difference Award in 2023 for the ABC-ICH project. The award has helped us push on with our North of England scale-up and we aim to expand nationally in 2024, saving even more lives after stroke caused by bleeding.”

Highly commended

Dr Kate Duhig and Professor Jenny Myers

Placental growth factor testing for suspected preeclampsia

This project demonstrated that placental growth factor testing (PIGF) reduced the time it took for doctors to make a diagnosis of preeclampsia, a dangerous condition that can cause pregnant women to become very unwell and can be fatal for their unborn children. This led to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence changing its guidance so that PIGF testing is now recommended for all pregnant women in the UK who have suspected preeclampsia.

Professor Jamie Woodward, Dr Rachel Hurley, Dr Jiawei Li and Professor James Rothwell 

Microplastics in UK rivers – getting to the bottom of the problem

This project showed that water companies are the main cause of microplastic contamination in UK rivers, by releasing untreated wastewater during dry weather into rivers that are too sluggish to wash microplastics downstream. The research then connected microplastic pollution of rivers with the national scandal of water companies dumping untreated sewage. The ground-breaking work with national policymakers has changed the entire discourse around water pollution in rivers by ensuring microplastics were included in discussions around new Government legislation for environmental protection resulting in a new level of scrutiny of the water companies.

Dalton Nuclear Institute team

Dalton Nuclear policy group

This project is helping to achieve the UK’s net zero ambition, while addressing the challenges of public perception and associated costs. The group assembled a team of researchers to provide impartial, academic advice. Galvanising a vocal community of industry and policymakers, Dalton Nuclear Institute established themselves as the go-to academic group for independent, trusted advice, able to provide the government with clarity in the midst of a sea of lobbying and critique.  

Outstanding teaching innovation in social responsibility


Dr Elaine Clark

Enhancing well-being through the curriculum

This project involved work on the University College for Interdisciplinary Learning (UCIL) course ‘Communicating with Confidence’. The course was developed in partnership with students and with input from colleagues from FBMH, Geography, AMBS and Careers.  It draws on theoretical insights and interdisciplinary research to enable students to create a confidence toolkit, enhancing wellbeing through the curriculum. 

Highly commended

Nick Weise, Lesley-Ann Miller and the IB MOOC team

Massive Open Online Course in industrial biotechnology

This project created a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) raising awareness of, and showcasing the University of Manchester’s research in, industrial biotechnology. This field is linked to 11 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and a key enabler in the greening of chemical, energy and health product manufacture. The course has had over 80,000 participants across six continents worldwide and has impacted the attitudes, aspirations and careers choices of the general public, students and industry professionals alike.

“This award is greatly appreciated for the recognition is has given to the researchers and science communicators working across different continents to engage and involve vulnerable coastal communities in Brazil. It has been challenging but very rewarding to help those whose lives are most susceptible to climate change and this award has added to that!”

Muungano-Community Savers-GDI Teaching Alliance

Decolonising development pedagogies while supporting inclusive development practice

This project involved co-producing a series of teaching innovations to decolonise development studies teaching and give students first-hand insight into the strategies and practices of community activists fighting for more inclusive urban development in Manchester, Kenya and Uganda. It offers critical balance to traditional pedagogies that prioritise engagement with development theories and professional practice by bringing unheard voices into the classroom. These teaching innovations have simultaneously paved the way for the Global Development Institute to help facilitate and support the emergence of a new network of women’s savings groups across Manchester and Sheffield, thus strengthening global urban development practice. 


Outstanding social innovation and environmental impact


Dr Muir Freer, Dr Clair Gough, Dr Andrew Welfle and Dr Amanda Lea-Langton

Improving industrial processes through bioenergy with carbon capture and storage

This project created a model to help industry calculate the end-to-end carbon costs of operating bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, one of the most viable and cost-effective large-scale energy generation and CO2 removal processes, anywhere in the UK.  This model could help UK industries become more prosperous, whilst also helping them to drastically reduce their carbon emissions.

“Winning the Making a Difference Award has been a pivotal moment for our team, not only validating our BECCS research but also opening doors to engage with vital industrial stakeholders. This recognition fuels our dedication to propelling environmental engineering research into practical, economy-boosting applications with wide societal benefits.”

Highly commended

Malavika Krishnan

One thing that should never be taken away from you is your education!

This project aimed to ensure that inequalities and the pandemic aren’t a reason for poor learning outcomes. It supported government school students who are discriminated against in schools and receive insufficient pedagogical attention, to ensure that the pandemic does not exacerbate these existing inequalities. As part of Chalo Padhe Online, this project supported 200 girls and students from lower-income families in Delhi with school supplies, smartphones, internet packages and specialised online learning programmes.

Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub team

Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub

This project helps Greater Manchester based Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) overcome barriers to sustainability by providing free support in the form of advice, assessment and innovation. Access to expertise in materials science, specialist facilities, and impartial scientific research enable eligible businesses to make sustainable decisions on plastics that avoid unintended consequences. To date, the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub has provided over 6,000 hours of support to over 300 businesses and collaborated on the development of five new products, two of which were not previously available on the UK market.

“It was so rewarding to be highly commended for our work in the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub. Working to enable sustainable changes in industry is fulfilling in and of itself, but the recognition gives our team an extra boost to keep up the effort and push for a more sustainable future.”

Outstanding public and community engagement initiative: Outstanding contribution by our cultural institutions


Pinc College and the Manchester Museum Learning and Engagement team

Pinc College – creating inclusive pathways for all

This project focusses on education within cultural establishments and asks ‘What if?’… What if this were young people learning every day?  What would the impact be for social inclusion and diversity of cultural sector workforces? Since 2019, Pinc College’s partnership with Manchester Museum has been pivotal to the success of their study programmes and opening the doors for neurodivergent young people. This partnership model is a flagship and beacon for cultural institutions nationally and shows that a robust, quality education package with routes to work and pathways to further and higher education is achievable.

Highly commended

Dominic Bilton, Imogen Holmes-Roe and Victoria Hartley

(Un)Defining Queer Project and exhibition

This is a project led by an intersectional group of people who self-identify as LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex and asexual). As part of the project, the team have created an exhibition which has evolved from research and collaboration over the last two years, with the themes shaped by project participants. Gallery visitors are also invited to contribute to the development of a “Queer Glossary” to explore how to define LGBTQIA+ representation and visibility within the gallery. Their hope is that the glossary will increase confidence in the use of queer vocabulary while providing a valuable toolkit for uncovering and communicating hidden LGBTQIA+ experiences.


Outstanding public and community engagement initiative: Outstanding local/civic engagement


‘Don’t Brush It Under the Carpet’ campaign team

Don’t Brush It Under the Carpet – a Greater Manchester campaign

This project involves a campaign co-produced by a working group comprised of representatives from the award-winning ‘Shining a Light on Suicide’ Campaign – Greater Manchester Older People’s Network, Greater Manchester Ageing Hub, health professionals, researchers and focus groups of older residents. The campaign aimed to start a conversation about self-harm with older people, to encourage them to seek support if needed and to raise awareness with those around them, including professionals. The ‘Don’t Brush It Under the Carpet’ campaign features posters and social media content themed around common sayings and phrases in order to capture people’s attention and encourage them to talk to someone about how they are feeling.

Student winner

Yasmin Egonu, Rachel Lee, Annabel Johnson and Olivia Nelson

Dentists in Primary Schools (DiPS)

This is a student-led initiative focussed on promoting the importance of oral health in primary schools at a Key Stage 1 level. The project primarily works with schools located within the Greater Manchester area, from low socioeconomic backgrounds, that are deemed low performing. The project includes educating primary school students to adopt healthier oral hygiene and eating habits, making children feel more comfortable about attending the dentist and establishing long-term working relations with the primary schools.

Highly commended

Sophina Choudry, Professor Erica Burman, Professor Julian Williams, Dr Ishba Rehman, Dr Jaina Yasmeen Bharkhda and Sidra Iftikhar

The Pakistani Communities Call to Action (PaCCT) in Rochdale project

This project consulted with the most vulnerable members of the Rochdale Pakistani communities, which included women suffering domestic violence, widows or elderly people with language barriers, these were recruited through local voluntary charities. The team conducted consultative online interviews and follow-up meetings in the language of their choice. They built from their accounts to co-create a ‘Call to Action’ document that has been used to inform policy and service changes that directly benefit members of the Pakistani communities. 

The ‘Still Life’ team

Still Life: pregnancy and loss in the Jewish community

This project explored personal experiences of stillbirth through a series of creative workshops involving women from Greater Manchester’s Jewish community. It also provided an opportunity for those affected to meet with researchers and to learn from each other. The project has helped break the taboo surrounding stillbirth within this community, improved public understanding of and engagement with research aimed at stillbirth prevention, and led to co-development of hospital guidelines for providing better care and support for Jewish parents who experience the loss of a baby.

Convo Club

Convo Club

This is a student-led initiative that provides weekly group meet-ups to create a safe and friendly environment for refugees and asylum seekers to practice their spoken English and gain confidence through friendly and informal conversation. Convo Club is under the leadership of six dedicated students; Chloe, Ayushi, Meiyang, Schnelle, Argyro and Ananya. This leadership team, together with student volunteers, collaborate with five local charities who provide space and advertise to service users about the sessions which the student volunteers then lead.


Outstanding public and community engagement initiative: Outstanding public contribution


Choel Cartwright, Daniell Musaheb, Zoe Hopkins and Gordon Flear

Ardwick Stepping Stones

This project aims to address the loss of local biodiversity due to construction. The team are collaborating with the Eden Project, City of Trees, The University of Manchester, Sow the City, Manchester Museum and Festival Manchester. Their work encompasses the rewilding of green spaces, monitoring pollution levels and climate advocacy that serves to benefit the local community. They are also developing walking routes, maps and wayfinders for residents and passers-by to find out about the projects and enjoy the green spaces.

Highly commended

Eugene Sobers

The Youth Alliance

This project created a very different way for the Whitworth to work with young people and local communities. Eugene Sobers, a Manchester-based writer, was introduced to the Whitworth by  socially-engaged artist Suzanne Lacy. After the introduction, Sobers worked collaboratively with the Whitworth, students and the local youths.  Their work was exhibited in Lacy’s exhibition and they designed a manifesto for a youth city. Sobers co-hosted a youth agency summit and set up The Alliance to highlight effective youth practice in the city. 

“Winning the award has significantly impacted my life and work. Recognition from the University of Manchester and an exhibition in Suzanne Lacy’s show validate my creative approach. Increased visibility can lead to new opportunities and connections within arts and youth engagement. The award serves as validation of my youth practice and positions me as a leader in effective engagement. Overall, winning the award boosts my profile and reaffirms the importance of my work in making a positive difference.”

Outstanding public and community engagement initiative: Outstanding national/international engagement


Nick Weise and the Maretório team

Maretório: making space to communicate about science, conservation and climate change

This project communicates about climate change to traditional coastal communities across Brazil, promoting local perspectives and knowledge to strengthen traditional coastal communities and increase their resilience to climate change. It creates an environment for dialogue with communities on climate change and conservation of their socio-ecological systems, as well as promoting community engagement with public policies based on local contexts and the effects of climate change on livelihoods and conservation.

Highly commended

Catherine Walker, Sustainable Consumption Institute, and the YPAC research team

Young People at a Crossroads creative resources

This project involved international collaboration on participatory research with migrant-background young people. It explored migrant families’ experiences of living with climate change, and considered how these experiences could be applied to climate change education. The project worked with teachers and creative professionals to generate educational resources that connect everyday knowledge and practices of migrant families with curricula in Manchester, Melbourne and beyond.

Our Shared Cultural Heritage team

Our Shared Cultural Heritage – International Partnerships

This project aims to strengthen international relationships by exploring India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the UK’s complex, shared history, focusing on shaping the future and developing meaningful long-term creative collaborations and connections. This Manchester Museum initiative empowers young people to become leaders and change makers within the arts and heritage sector through offering skills-development and collaborative opportunities with South Asia partners.

Outstanding contribution to equality, diversity and inclusion


Dr Laura Richards and Dr Diane Harris

Advancing gender equality through global collaboration

This project aimed to advance gender equality within the University sector. It worked with Indian and Brazilian higher education institutions to develop frameworks analogous to Manchester’s  shared principles and ‘Athena Swan’ charter mark awards. This helped accelerate gender equality internationally, through the co-creation of culturally contextualised frameworks, as well as mentoring, sharing experiences and facilitating workshops.

“We were delighted to win a Making a Difference Award under the Outstanding Contribution to Equality, Diversity & Inclusion category for our work ‘Advancing Gender Equality through Global Collaboration’. With a team of Manchester colleagues, we have been working to share best practice, providing mentorship and guidance to develop policies and practices to accelerate gender equality in higher education institutions in India, Brazil and the UK. We are incredibly grateful to receive a Making a Difference award, which has led to raised awareness and media coverage, contributing to collective momentum for progressing this work. We share our success with the many colleagues across India, Brazil and UK working tirelessly to accelerate gender equality in higher education institutions globally.”

Student winners

Beth Barnes

Alternative Football League

This project is the North West’s only fully-inclusive, small-sided football league for women, non-binary and transgender individuals. It’s aimed at beginner players, so that anyone, no matter their background or experience, can give football a go. The aim is to create a connective community, support-network and place where everyone is welcome and feel that they matter, regardless of experience, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or financial background. The volunteer-led league provides inclusive football for 250+ individuals from 19 teams across Manchester. As a social enterprise, they reinvest their profit into mental health workshops for football players UK-wide.

Ann Njeri

Elimisha Msichana Elimisha Jamii na Astronomia (Swahili for “Educate a Girl, Educate the entire community”)

This project, Swahili for “Educate a Girl, Educate the entire community”, aims to address the issue of gender disparity and equality in education, which is critically important for socio-economic growth. It is addressing some of these issues in rural Kenya via astronomy outreach, mentorship, targeted STEM workshops and scholarships opportunities, guided by long-term student tracking and monitoring. So far, around 4,000 girls have been reached and 73% of mentees are now completing secondary education.

Highly commended

Vanessa Cowan

University of Manchester menopause support group

This project is driving the University forward in supporting women going through the menopause or any other people experiencing significant hormonal challenges, through guidance, inspiration, discussion and support. There is an online support group which enables colleagues to share experiences, news stories, articles, events, webinars, opportunities, statistics, information, advice and is a safe and welcoming forum for all staff to ask questions and seek answers about the menopause. On the back of this, and with the introduction of the new Head of Wellbeing, the University recently announced that the University is ‘Committed to being a menopause-friendly employer’ aiming to achieve ‘Accredited Menopause Friendly Employer’ status in the next 12 months.

“I was very proud to be highly commended at the Making a Difference Awards in 2022. This was for Outstanding contribution to equality, diversity and inclusion for the University of Manchester menopause support group. It was fantastic that the support group gained attention, as membership increased following the award. This meant more women wouldn’t feel isolated dealing with their menopause symptoms. The Making a Difference Awards have been highlighting for years the inspirational work by many colleagues. To be recognised in this group was amazing.”

Perpetual Idehen

PGR parents, carers and guardians network

This project established a support network to help postgraduates who balance their time between family and research to navigate the University’s policies and UK systems from a parent perspective. The network, with over 50 subscribed members, creates a safe space to share experiences and social interactions, linking postgraduate researchers with shared interests and responsibilities across all three faculties with an inclusion of their kids.

“Receiving a Making a Difference Award in 2023 was a real high point for me; getting recognition for founding a support Network for the PGR Parents, Carers and Guardians recognises the importance of the University’s social responsibility agenda.”

Outstanding professional services for social responsibility


Tracy Gallimore, Fiona Day and Ewa Edwards

DSE career development scheme

This project identified that there were limited opportunities for progression for lower grade staff. As a result, the team worked together to devise the Career Development Scheme (CDS), which included a range of placements for staff within Residences to undertake work within the Student Administration and Finance teams. These placements provided participants with a variety of opportunities to work on different projects and tasks, building their technical and administrative skills within supportive environments, in recognition that participants came from diverse backgrounds and may have had limited opportunity to develop IT skills.

Highly commended

Campus cleansing team              

North campus clearance project

This project has helped clear the North Campus, involving around 2,500 spaces across nine University buildings, in preparation for handing the buildings over to the Joint Venture/ID Manchester. The team have ensured the clearance of all building contents and managing the waste as sustainably as possible. This has involved a number of parties across the University including the Campus Cleansing Unit in Estates and Facilities who have assisted with the collection and recycling of various waste streams from the beginning of the project.


Environmental Services Unit landscape services team

Queens canopy installation & SMI Hub composting use

This project involves the Environmental Services Unit utilising a large amount of compost within University grounds as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy project. This will create a network of individual trees, avenues, copses and whole woodlands in honour of The Queen’s service. The compost has been produced by the Sustainable Materials Innovation (SMI) hub.  The SMI is using its industrial size composting machine as part of an initiative to assess the claims of packaging labelled as compostable or biodegradable.

“Our Highly Commended Making a difference Award 2023 for our work producing the Queens Platinum Jubilee Canopy on Main Campus was massively appreciated and surprising. The landscape team appreciated the recognition for their dedicated work in providing a lasting legacy for the late Queen, the University and also our many neighbours in the local community.”

Outstanding contribution to environmental sustainability


 Dr Christina Picken

Greening labs – Making the SMI Hub genuinely sustainable

This project has completely redesigned the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub laboratory practices to align with their research ethos and encourage sustainable practices. It has culminated in a gold LEAF submission and has encouraged other laboratories within The Henry Royce Institute and Department of Materials to follow suit.

“The Greening Labs Project challenges the sustainability of research activities within the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub. Research laboratories are associated with 3x the energy use of a an equally sized office space, contribute to significant amounts of waste and often utilise environmentally hazardous resources. The project aimed to reduce the impact of the research activities by eliminating water consumption for cooling processes, introducing recycling systems, assessing our energy requirements, and employing greener chemicals. Winning the MAD award has given more visibility to the project which has led to other labs addressing the sustainability of their labs. It’s been empowering to see the small project grow and gain recognition from all across the university.”

Faculty of Science and Engineering sustainable travel working group

Faculty of Science and Engineering sustainable travel project

This project identified best practice and produced guidance to support positive change behaviours in sustainable business travel practices within the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE). It has already resulted in Faculty-level impact on 3,488 staff and postgraduate researcher (PGR) travel activity and directly supported the University’s Scope 3 carbon emission targets, contributing to an 85% reduction in emissions in 2022 compared with 2018/19. The model of practice designed by this group, and guidance resulting from it, has now become the basis for the University-wide Travel Policy launched in 2022.

Highly commended

Want Not Waste

Want Not Waste

This is a student-led project which runs a sustainability, low-waste shop next to the Students’ Union that sells healthy and sustainable products with the aim of promoting a more sustainable lifestyle. Want not Waste is specifically aimed at a student lifestyle and budget in order to provide the best and most affordable access to sustainable living. It also encourages the wider Manchester community to come into the shop, buy products and learn about how they can lead an eco-friendly lifestyle. Through the shop and social media Want Not Waste fosters an ever-expanding community passionate about sustainability.

“The WantNotWaste team was extremely proud to be high commended in the Make a Difference Awards. We hope our shop continues to make a difference in the Manchester community, providing zero waste, sustainable and ethically sourced products at reasonable prices to all.”

Outstanding contribution to widening participation


Tom Fryer

Write on Point

This project provided UCAS personal statement support to over 1,400 students from under-represented backgrounds. It arose in response to research on inequalities in access to high-quality UCAS personal statement support, and the corresponding impact on university access.

“It was an honour to win the Making a Difference Award for Widening Participation in 2023. The award has been a great way to gain visibility for my project that provided UCAS personal statement feedback to students from under-represented backgrounds.”

Highly commended

The University of Manchester Physics Outreach team

University of Manchester Physics Outreach

This is a student-organised project aims to increase the diversity of students in the natural sciences (notably physics) through a range of outreach activities. UMPO volunteers excite audiences with science demonstrations, using their enthusiasm and scientific knowledge in workshops for primary and secondary schools.  They ‘science busk’ and cover topics from planetary physics to under-represented groups in STEM, acting as role models for the diversity they’re trying to foster.  Volunteers share their course knowledge and learning, alongside their enthusiasm for STEM to inspire young people and visitors at events.

Christine Furber, Silvia Collins, Kathy Murphy and Shirley Brown

The ‘With Women’ project

This project promotes the midwifery profession to young people of ethnic heritage, where communities experience poor health outcomes. Evidence suggests that bicultural workers have significant impact on improving care during childbearing due to their unique understanding of cultural backgrounds. This is a joint initiative with local maternity services, communities and schools. The book ’With Women’ (published 2021) has stories of local midwives. This publication is used together with regular visits of local secondary schools to promote midwifery.


Special achievement award

Jodrell Bank First Light team

First Light at Jodrell Bank

This project achieves a transformative moment for Jodrell Bank; reimagining the extent and depth of participation, providing opportunities via involvement, and learning to fuse science, culture and education. The First Light Pavilion also provides sustainability, accessibility and a positive social contribution.

“It was humbling for Jodrell Bank to be awarded a ‘Make a Difference’ award for our First Light Pavilion and the team’s outstanding contribution to social responsibility. This recognition reaffirms our commitment to inspiring and engaging with the community, and we are dedicated to continuing our efforts in making a positive impact on society through science and education.”


Manchester Museum hello future team

hello future

This project acknowledges, interrogates and addresses the Museum’s complex history. The team are rethinking restitution, building new relationships with communities across the world and with those most intimately connected to our collections. The galleries and facilities have been co-curated and co-designed and displays include new and diverse perspectives. A more pro-active approach to repatriation, social justice and anti-poverty work is understood and wholeheartedly supported as an integral part of what it means to be a socially responsible museum and university. The team are leading, facilitating and supporting more collections-based and diverse, interdisciplinary research and co-research than ever before. It is embedded in all the new displays.


Catch up on our 2023 Making a Difference Awards ceremony, here.