IWP Projects Sheffield

Research overview

We use our knowledge and research expertise to conduct research that informs ongoing academic debates and addresses real-world problems through applied research project in collaboration with organisations.

A selection of our current research projects:

Collaboration for innovation in the water-sector (Theme 7 of the TWENTY65 research programme)

Water is the foundation of our society. At present we have increasingly unsustainable and inflexible water systems that will not be able to meet society’s future water needs as populations increase, infrastructure ages, and as the natural environment comes under increasing long term pressures.

Given this situation, a grand challenge emerges: How can we tailor water systems and change innovation in the water sector to deliver positive impact on health, the environment, the economy and society by 2065? A consortium of six Universities are undertaking this challenge under the umbrella of the TWENTY65 research programme.

Theme 7 of TWENTY65 addresses the issue that the transformative aims of providing tailored water for all demand radically innovative new approaches requiring creative and integrative collaborations between Water Companies and their major stakeholders (Supply Chain, Academia, User and Policy). At the moment, stakeholder silos and disciplinary and sectoral boundaries constantly undermine the success of collaborative innovation efforts. For example, academics produce potentially influential new research but struggle through lack of collaboration with the Water Industry in how to implement those ideas on a wide scale. Water companies and their supply chain fail to engage domestic and business users to gain a detailed enough understanding on their differing needs and willingness to change. Policy-makers lack a sufficient understanding of the complexity of the water industry when defining new regulations. Our research theme therefore aims to improve our understanding of the complexities of collaboration and offer strategies and tools for enhancing shared innovation processes through two objectives:

  1. Identify the factors influencing the effectiveness of collaboration between stakeholders across the different stages of the innovation process from challenge identification and analysis, to creative idea generation, to idea evaluation, to implementation and maintenance of innovations.
  2. Develop, test and implement a new practical model to guide collaborations across different stages and stakeholders in the innovation process. The model will build on our existing CLEAR IDEAS innovation development framework to provide the basis for training interventions and software tools.


The funding body for this research is the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The amount awarded for Theme 7 is £274,000 (£3.9m for overall TWENTY65 research programme - duration 2016-2020).


Dr Kamal Birdi (IWP, Theme Leader), Dr James Porter (Theme Research Associate), Dr Vanessa Speight (Theme Co-Investigator), all from the University of Sheffield and Professor Kerrie Unsworth (Theme Co-Investigator, Leeds University Business School). The overall TWENTY65 research programme lead is Prof Joby Boxall (University of Sheffield)

Click here to find out more about TWENTY65.

ESTEEM: European Safety Training and Evaluation Supporting European Mobility The health and safety of all workers remains paramount across Europe. Certain sectors, such as the construction industry, lag behind in their implementation of safety procedures, with often fatal consequences. Migrant workers in particular suffer high accident rates. There is a critical need to deliver effective safety training migrant workers in high risk environments such as the construction industry. Furthermore, there are currently no established frameworks for evaluating the quality and efficacy of safety training.
Arising from these challenges, the primary goal of ESTEEM is to maximise the quality and efficacy of safety training programmes provided in the EU. Taking a multi-national and multi-disciplinary approach, ESTEEM aims to:
  1. Develop and test safety training for migrant workers in the construction sector.
  2. Develop an evaluation framework that examines both the extent to which training is transferred to the worksite and leads to improved safety behaviours.
  3. Develop guidelines for good safety training and practice.


The project is funded by the ERASMUS+ programme and has been awarded Euros €442.000. The project runs from September 2017 to August 2020.


The project is led by Professor Karina Nielsen (IWP) together with Rose Shepherd and Hannah Evans (both IWP) and team from the Universities of Italy and Spain and IIPLE, Italy and Valora Prevencion, Spain.

You can read more about the project on: https://esteem.group.shef.ac.uk/

H-WORK – multilevel interventions to improve employee mental health

Professor Karina Nielsen and Dr Carolyn Axtell is part of a large H2020 consortium with 14 partners across Europe. The project is led by Professor Luca Pietrantino at the University of Bologna and runs from 2020 to 2024.

The aims of the research are to explore design, implement and evaluate organisational at the individual- group, leader and organisational levels to improve employee mental health in the public sector and in small and medium enterprises. Professor Nielsen is the work package leader on the evaluation and will develop and validate measures for evaluation the interventions according to the principles of realist evaluation. This evaluation framework seeks to answer the questions of “what works for whom in which circumstances”.


H2020 award: €3,987,000.


Pietrantino, L., Muschalla, B., Nielsen, K., Salanova, M., Abogaye, E., van den Heuvel, M., Christensen, M., Heber, E., Babouh, R., Tovoli, D.

Identifying the mechanisms linking socioeconomic status and child antisocial behaviour

Antisocial behaviour in young people causes extensive suffering for both victims and perpetrators, at a substantial cost to society. A wealth of evidence shows that antisocial behaviour is more common in children from families of lower socioeconomic status (SES). But to develop policies that can reduce both inequalities in, and absolute levels of child antisocial behaviour, it is crucial to understand how lower SES increases risk, and whether effects are consistent across development.

This project will address these issues in two linked studies. First we are systematically reviewing and synthesising the existing literature on mechanisms underlying links between family SES and offspring antisocial behaviour. Although a substantial body of literature has examined these issues, no comprehensive review exists to date.

Secondly guided by the review findings, we are conducting new analyses of the linking mechanisms in two large-scale, nationally representative longitudinal data sets: the British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Surveys. These include independent samples first contacted in 1999 (10,438 participants) and 2004 (7,977 participants) respectively, each followed up 3 years later. Both studies provide detailed multi-informant measures of child antisocial behaviour, several indices of family SES, and measures of potential linking mechanisms spanning parental mental health, parenting, family functioning, child intellectual ability, neighbourhood characteristics and peer context.

Funding body:

Nuffield Foundation


Dr Chris Stride (IWP) is a co-investigator on the project that is led by Prof Richard Rowe from the Psychology Department, University of Sheffield. Investigating team: University of Sheffield, University of Sydney, King’s College London.

Influence of personality characteristics on employees’ ability to recover from work demands during nonwork time

Dr Chris Stride, the statistician at IWP, has forged a close collaboration with Dr Paul Flaxman and his occupational health psychology research team at City, University of London. A major focus of their recent work has been on exploring the role of perfectionistic characteristics on employees’ ability to cognitively detach (and hence recover) from work demands during evenings, weekends, and vacations.

This research is underpinned by conservation of resources (COR) theory, and builds upon the recent interest in modelling trajectories of change over time in employees’ personal resources. Flaxman, Stride and their colleagues have examined weekly change in employees’ affective well-being around vacations from work. Their recent research has focused on school teachers in the UK and the US as they transition into and out of mid-term and Christmas breaks in the school calendar.

Dr Stride’s involvement has allowed the team to respond to recent calls to adopt nonlinear analytic procedures that closely match theoretical assumptions about change being advanced by COR theory.

The aims of the research are to explore how employees’ short-term exhaustion and mood states fluctuate around vacations; to investigate the influence of employee perfectionism on these fluctuations; and, to offer better guidance to perfectionistic employees on how they might prevent short-term affective states from escalating into more chronic conditions, such as depression and burnout.

Funding body:

An initial grant of £80,000 was awarded to Dr. Flaxman by the Economic and Social Research Council (2009-2010); and a small grant (£10,000) awarded to Dr. Flaxman and Shannon Horan by the British Academy (2015-2016).


The overall research programme is led by Dr Paul Flaxman (City, University of London) and Dr Chris Stride (IWP). Co-investigators include Dr Sonja Newman (University of Hertfordshire), Shannon Horan (City, University of London), Dr Mia Söderberg (Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Gothenburg, Sweden), Dr Julie Menard (Université du Québec à Montréal), and Dr Madelon van Hooff (Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands).

New challenges to the management of psychosocial risks at work in times of rapid economic and technological changes in Italy and Europe. A comparative multilevel approach

Professor Karina Nielsen is part of a consortium led by Nico Dragano at the University of Dusseldorf. The project runs from 2020 to 2023.

The aims of the project are threefold: to understand the impact of new ways of working and restructuring at the indiviaul worker level, to develop, implement and evalaute interventions to manage psychosocial risks in the workplace and to review national European policies that support the management of psychosocial risks. Professor Nielsen is leading a work package on interventions that focuses on the second aim.

Funding body:

BRIC award: €501,601


Dragano, N. (University of Dusseldorf), Nielsen, K. (University of Sheffield), Leka, S. (University of Cork), Vignoli, M. (University of Trento)

Reducing newly-qualified driver crash risk: Identifying behavioural targets

The study addresses road traffic crashes in the early months of driving. During 2013 crashes claimed 1,713 UK lives and seriously injured 21,657; a human tragedy that cost the economy £14.7 billion (Department for Transport, 2014). Novice drivers are the highest risk motoring group. Crash rates peak immediately after obtaining a licence and decrease quickly over the next few months (McCartt et al., 2009). For example, in the Department for Transport’s Cohort II study, crash risk fell 40% in the first 6 months and 35% in the next 6 months (Wells et al., 2008). Little is known about how driving behaviour changes to improve safety. In order to inform intervention development we aim to identify the behavioural mechanisms that place newly qualified drivers at high crash risk.

This project seeks to identify how driving behaviour changes to become safer as a result of experience. This information can inform interventions to give novices the lower crash risk of more experienced drivers from the outset of their driving careers.

The existing literature identifies behavioural predictors of crash involvement (de Winter & Dodou, 2010; Rowe et al., 2015) but existing instruments do not identify the behaviours that underlie the reduction in crash liability observed in the first few months of driving. While crash rates fall over this period, performance on the existing behavioural measures paradoxically changes little or even becomes more dangerous. A new driving behaviour measure is needed to understand how experience leads to lower crash involvement. Once the behavioural changes have been identified then they may become the targets of training and legislation to provide new drivers with the lower crash risk of more experienced drivers.

This project takes a fresh approach to measuring behavioural changes during the early months of driving. Qualitative methods will elicit subjective accounts of how behaviour changes in high-risk situations for novice drivers. A quantitative study will then objectively test whether the identified behaviours are safer in more experienced drivers and whether they relate to crash involvement.

Funding body:



Dr Chris Stride is a co-investigator on the project that is led by Prof Richard Rowe from the Psychology Department, University of Sheffield.

RoMHS: Retention of Mental Health Staff

The NHS is struggling to keep staff, on average 15% of NHS staff leave their job every year but this ranges from 9% to 38%. We propose to study this variation within NHS mental health services to identify and better understand the reasons staff stay in their job. We will explore the effects of, and interactions between, the Trust, staff characteristics, roles, workplace practices and experiences at work. We will also assess the ways in which these things are linked to patient care. We aim to identify good practice and make recommendations to improve staff retention across the NHS.

Website: Find out more

Funding body:

The Health Foundation


This project is an exciting collaboration between the School of Health and Related Research, Health Sciences School (Division of Nursing and Midwifery) and the Management School within the University of Sheffield. The Managemnt School's Professors Rachael Finn and Jeremy Dawson are part of the project.

Click here for information on individual staff members.