Since it was established eight years ago the Celebrating Impact Prize has highlighted and recognised some of the ways in which ESRC-funded research impacts the economy and society.

All our winners and finalists have demonstrated the impact of their work and illustrated its relevance and importance to society. They are already contributing to policy debates in their specialist areas and hopefully their influence will continue for many years to come. Indeed, a key part of the success of our Impact Prize is how previous winners have become trusted sources of evidence, continuing to promote and further research into topics that are vital to people and society.

Read about the work of this year's finalists (PDF, 3.8Mb).

Outstanding Societal Impact

Winner: Professor Yvonne Jewkes (University of Bath)

  • Redesigning prisons to foster rehabilitation and hope

Research into the impact of penal architecture on prisoners and prison staff has changed thinking on custodial design and led to investment in more progressive and innovative prisons in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Finalist: Professor Marianne Hester (University of Bristol),

  • Justice, inequality and gender-based violence

Research into the impact of gender-based violence on victims-survivors and their experience of justice has led to greater protection for survivors of domestic abuse and their children, new understanding of what victim-survivors of gender-based violence seek in terms of justice, and improved advocacy, training and support by specialist services such as Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis.

Finalist: Professor Alice Sullivan (UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies)

  • Reading for pleasure boosts cognitive development

Research that shows reading for pleasure helps children perform significantly better in maths as well as English. This has directly influenced national and international policymakers, literacy organisations and schools to generate, fund and implement reading for pleasure campaigns and initiatives that have benefited the learning of millions of children worldwide.

Outstanding Business and Enterprise Impact

Winner: Professor Arjan Verschoor and Professor Ben D'Exelle (University of East Anglia)

  • Designing insurance to give smallholders a safe way out of poverty

Research into how Uganda's three million smallholder farmers perceive risk led to the development of a new drought insurance scheme, subsidised by the Ugandan government. The scheme now protects more than 225,000 smallholder farmers against the risks to their livelihoods posed by drought, pests and poor quality seed, and boosts productivity by providing smallholders with the confidence to invest in their farms.

Finalist: Dr Anna Remington (UCL Institute of Education)

  • Enhancing the employment of autistic individuals

Only 16% of autistic adults are in full-time employment in the UK, with lost employment detrimental to quality of life for the majority of autistic adults who would like to work, and costing the UK over £9 billion a year. Research into how to improve employment opportunities has changed public perceptions around autism, increased recruitment of autistic people and changed culture and practices in a number of UK and international organisations.

Outstanding International Impact

Winner: Ending the Reading Wars - (Professor Kathy Rastle, Royal Holloway University of London; Professor Kate Nation, University of Oxford; Professor Anne Castles, Macquarie University)

  • Employing the science of reading to improve literacy worldwide

Research outlining the science behind how children learn to read is transforming the way reading is taught in classrooms around the world and helping potentially millions of children improve their life chances through better literacy skills.

Outstanding Public Policy Impact

Winner: ESRC Centre for Population Change, University of Southampton - (Professor Jane Falkingham, Professor Maria Evandrou, Professor Ann Berrington, Professor Jakub Bijak, Professor Corrado Giulietti, Professor Peter W F Smith, Professor Athina Vlachantoni, Professor Jackline Wahba, Teresa McGowan, Becki Dey)

  • Improving data: Strengthening the evidence base for policy

The ESRC Centre for Population Change, through collaboration with the Office for National Statistics, has improved the accuracy of current and future population estimates for the UK, providing policy makers, planners and business with better evidence on which to build policy and plan public services as well as accurate data for business decisions.

Finalists: Professor Emla Fitzsimons and Dr Praveetha Patalay (UCL)

  • Adolescent mental health: improving young people’s lives using evidence from national cohort data

An estimated 16% of all 14-year olds in the UK in 2015 suffered from mental ill-health. Research which identified the scale of mental ill-health among the UK's adolescents, and studied its drivers, has focused national attention on the problem, prompting new government policy and strategies for improving young people's mental health.

Panel's Choice

Winners: Emla Fitzsimons and Praveetha Patalay (UCL)

  • Adolescent mental health: improving young people's lives using evidence from national cohort data

Lifetime Achievement

Winner: Professor Richard Layard (London School of Economics and Political Science)

  • Public policies for employment, skills, wellbeing and mental health

This year ESRC is recognising Professor Lord Richard Layard with a Lifetime Achievement Award to celebrate the outstanding contribution he has made to social science and society in the UK and beyond.  

Through his work as founder and Director of ESRC’s Centre for Economic Performance and currently Co-director of the Centre’s Community Wellbeing Programme, Lord Layard's research has shown how better wellbeing can improve lives and the economy.

He co-founded the Action for Happiness campaign and his work has resulted in an initiative to improve access to psychological therapies. The impact of Lord Layard’s work can be seen in education, employment, mental health and climate change; and his influence felt in academic research, public policy, community engagement – and across the political spectrum.