2021 Winners

PRIME Award winners 2021

In 2021, the PRIME Awards took place online, reflecting the changes occurring across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This didn't stop our academics and students from engaging, sharing and inspiring across the world. Prizes were awarded in 4 categories with applications from across the University's schools and global campuses:

  • Pioneer
  • Established Academic,
  • Partnership 
  • Community

Community was a new category introduced in 2021 to reflect the growing importance of engaging the wider community socially, culturally or economically with the university. Find out more about the shortlisted applications


The winner of the Pioneer Award was Dr Cathal Cummins from the Schools of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, and the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society. Cathal's research on the spread of coronavirus demonstrated how quickly our research can have meaningful impact, with his findings informing government advice and policy.

Established Academic

Prof. Kate Sang's work to engaged widely with the public to raise awareness of the impact of gynaecological health conditions and disability at work, was recognised with the Established Academic Award. Kate and her team, from the School of Social Sciences, developed and delivered virtual reality training for employers and trade union representatives, as well as working with the media, public workshops, contribution to government consultations and training workshops with employers. Last year, Kate was awarded the Scottish Trade Union Congress Equality Award by the First Minister in recognition of contribution to disability equality in Scotland.

In the established academic category, we also awarded a Highly Commended Award to Prof. Denny Ng, who has been involved in various national policy and standard development activities in Malaysia, integrating the process of scientific investigation with political debate and social discourse.


Amongst the excellent examples of researchers working in partnership to create impact, Dr Bill Sanderson's work with Glenmorangie Whisky on the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP) stood out for its far-reaching engagement with policymakers, communities, and the media. Bill and his team from the School of Energy Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society partnered with a variety of collaborators include Glenmorangie and the Marine Conservation Society. The diverse team worked with nature in a widely publicised novel corporate partnership, with multiple outreach initiatives and media coverage of hundreds of millions of “opportunities to see” and demonstrable economic and policy impacts.


The panel were so impressed with the applications that they received in the community category, that they awarded two prizes in this category, both to researchers in the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society.

Prof. Guy Walker and his team of students worked collaboratively with Heriot Watt's neighbours in Currie, Balerno and Juniper Green to help solve their traffic problems. Working in partnership with the community councils, and with local transport planning companies Systra and Tracsis, the team have co-developed solutions that have already been implemented and have also designed a new community-generated active travel Education Corridor, which they hope will inform future planning.

Prof's Gabi Medero and Harry Smith were the second winners in this category, who were recognised for their Action-research which has empowered communities in informal settlements in Colombia and Brazil, to participate in managing environmental risks that are intensifying due to climate change. A wide range of co-developed initiatives has led to policy reforms that address the connected environmental and social issues faced by vulnerable neighbourhoods; overcoming barriers to cooperation between communities and local government; and improved community awareness .

These awards demonstrate the importance the University places on the impact our research and institution have on our communities, our stakeholders and wider society. It's wonderful to see such innovative and impactful initiatives driving forward change, sharing our research and building flourishing communities both locally and globally

Principal and Vice Chancellor Richard Williams

You can find out more about the winners and shortlisted candidates on the HW Engage Sway