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National recognition for groundbreaking University of York business collaboration

Posted on 25 June 2013

An innovative scientific and educational collaboration between the University of York and Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo has scooped a top national award in recognition of the outstanding impact of its conservation and educational work.

CIRCLE (the Centre for the Integration of Research, Conservation and Learning), a joint initiative between the University and the North Yorkshire zoo, won the PraxisUnico Collaborative Impact Award at a special awards ceremony in Nottingham.

The Impact Awards recognise and celebrate the success of collaborative working and the process of innovation, rewarding projects which take knowledge and expertise out of academia and use it for the wider benefit of society and the economy.

The Collaborative Impact Award recognises CIRCLE’s ground-breaking research into forestry and biodiversity conservation, together with environmental education for the protection and conservation of forest, its species and habitat.

CIRCLE’s Director Dr Andy Marshall has a joint appointment as Head of Conservation at Flamingo Land and Lecturer at the University of York. His research into the importance of biodiversity in the Magombera Forest in Tanzania has translated into important knowledge transfer activities in the UK and Africa, through the creation of the Udzungwa Forest Project (UFP).

The Tanzanian forest contains globally important numbers of threatened species, which UFP is working to conserve. It has worked with schools and trained local groups, reducing reliance on the forest for resources and generating sustainable sources of income directly related to forest conservation.

We hope the success of this project encourages other companies to explore the benefits of engaging with the University sector

Mark Mortimer

Gordon Gibb, Chief Executive of Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo, said, “Winning this award shows the value of university research for UK companies. This partnership has led to significant advances in biodiversity conservation and public awareness of the environment on a local, national and international scale.”

Other CIRCLE successes include:

  • Seven Tanzanian staff are now employed to protect, monitor, and trial methods for improving forest health.
  • 10,000 villagers have been trained in construction of fuel-efficient stoves, reducing reliance on the forest for resources and protecting its long-term sustainability.
  • Average tree diameter has increased by 5.1 per cent and biomass by 2.7 per cent at monitoring sites in Tanzania since 2005; five red-listed tree species have been successfully propagated in nurseries.
  • An in-depth survey of the endangered Verdcourt’s Polyalthia tree led to a revision of its status on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, increasing the species’ survival chances.
  • In the UK, CIRCLE has created educational jobs to cover the 1000+ schools and 1.3m visitors to the zoo every year. Six interns a year work on conservation-specific research projects. Results include a newly-designed Humboldt penguin enclosure, with the birds demonstrating increased levels of natural behaviour.

Mark Mortimer, Director of Research and Enterprise at the University of York, said: “The University of York recognises the vital importance of universities and business working closely together so that research has a real impact, improving the world we live in. We are therefore very proud that this collaboration has been recognised by PraxisUnico.

“There are a wide range of funding mechanisms allowing companies from all sectors to engage with Universities, such as the Knowledge Transfer Partnership that started this collaboration. We hope the success of this project encourages other companies to explore the benefits of engaging with the University sector.”  

Professor Colin Brown, head of the University’s Environment Department, said: “It is excellent to see our research make a difference, both locally and internationally. The collaboration with Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo has huge benefits for each partner. Flamingo Land benefits from the environmental research and infrastructure provided by the University, which means projects can be run to the highest standards of academic excellence.

“From the University’s perspective, we are able to contribute to the local economy through working closely with a family business. The partnership also allows us to reach UK adults and children with important conservation messages.”

The PraxisUnico Impact Awards focus on three categories: Collaborative Impact Award, Business Impact Aspiring Award and Business Impact Achieved Award. The judging panel was chaired by Professor Sir Tim Wilson, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire, and author of the Government-commissioned Review of Business-University Collaboration 2012, who is a strong advocate of the role of universities in economic development. Other judges included Dr Celia Caulcott, Director of Innovation and Skills, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Dr Malcolm Skingle, Director of Academic Liaison at GlaxoSmithKline. 

Notes to editors:

  • For more information on The Impact Awards visit
  • The CIRCLE institute (Centre for the Integration of Research, Conservation and Learning) was launched in October 2010 and is part of the University of York’s Environment Department based at Flamingo Land. For further information on the Environment Department visit
  • Flamingo Land Resort was founded in 1961 and today houses over 130 species of animals and over 50 theme park rides. Flamingo Land plays an active role in conservation and education both in the zoo, and in Tanzania through the park’s Udzungwa Forest Project. Anyone interested in volunteering to help with education and conservation can contact Flamingo Land holds a David Bellamy Gold Award for conservation and the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums Award for the Best Field Conservation Programme. Visit

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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