Loughborough University’s collaborative work with adidas shortlisted for best UK industry-academia partnership

Loughborough University and adidas are one of only six exceptional industry–academia partnerships from across the UK to be shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Engineering Bhattacharyya Award.

a researcher holding an adidas ball

adidas Al Rihla Pro football testing, Sports Technology Institute

One of the world’s oldest and largest sportswear and equipment manufacturers, adidas has partnered with the University since 2002 to advance engineering knowledge that has brought iconic products to market and been translated beyond the global sports sector for wider societal impact.

Drawing on the University’s first-class capabilities in engineering, aerodynamics, ergonomics and sports science, project teams have worked to make sport safer, more accessible and allow people to perform at their best, whilst developing the adidas talent pipeline.

The collaborative research has influenced all adidas major tournament footballs since 2004, enabling innovative enhancements to ball balance, surface texture and aerodynamics. The most iconic footballs used on the international stage have benefited from the research with learnings from ball aerodynamics research translated to advances in automotive vehicle wake flow.

Expertise developed through the analysis of short duration collisions in football has benefited other sports, with Loughborough research informing new International Standards for cricket helmet performance that have eliminated facial injuries among professional helmeted batters. 

Loughborough and adidas developed the first-ever sweat body maps of males, females, and children to inform the company’s sector-leading clima® product range. These body maps are now widely used as a benchmark for thermal comfort, and are integrated into the first virtual Human Thermal Model which enables organisations worldwide to optimise product design for multiple populations across a range of industry sectors.

Full details of the impacts of the Loughborough adidas partnership are available on the University website.

The Bhattacharyya Award is a tribute to Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya KT CBE FREng FRS, the Regius Professor of Manufacturing at the University of Warwick and founder of WMG who advocated for greater collaboration between industry and universities. Funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, the annual Bhattacharyya Award is open to UK universities and colleges that have demonstrated a sustained, strategic industrial partnership that has benefitted society and is deserving of national recognition. Industry–academia partnerships from any academic discipline are eligible for the Bhattacharyya Award.

In 2019, the inaugural year of the Bhattacharyya Award, the University was shortlisted for its partnership with Rolls-Royce, which first began in the 1960s and was formalised in 1991 with the establishment of the Rolls Royce University Technology Centre - later leading to the establishment of the National Centre for Combustion and Aerothermal Technology, on Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park.

Professor Nick Jennings, Loughborough University Vice-Chancellor said: “I am hugely proud that the University’s outstanding collaborative track record with adidas has been recognised as one of the UK’s most exceptional industry–academia partnerships. adidas has enabled the University to raise the level of its research ambition, creating a world-class environment that continually opens new opportunities to advance original knowledge, drive innovation and enrich our student experience.”

The full shortlist of finalists including videos of the shortlisted partnerships is available on the Royal Academy of Engineering website.

The Bhattacharyya Award 2023 will be announced on the evening of 24 October and a cash prize of £25,000 will be presented to the winners.