UCEM Property Awards 2020: Q&A with our Harold Samuel Research Prize winners, Dr Olayiwola Oladiran and Professor Anupam Nanda

Posted on: 2020-10-23

Last Thursday (15 October), we held our 33rd Property Awards event online where, for only the second time, we announced this year’s recipients of the Harold Samuel Research Prize.


The Prize was awarded to Dr Olayiwola Oladiran – a Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University – and Professor Anupam Nanda – a Professor at The University of Manchester – for their proposal on developing an integration framework for Proptech education.


We spoke to Dr Oladiran and Professor Nanda to learn more about their research proposal and what they hope to achieve…


Firstly, here’s a little about both Dr Oladiran and Professor Nanda:

Dr Olayiwola Oladiran

Dr Olayiwola Oladiran is a real estate analyst, researcher and educator. He is currently a Lecturer in Real Estate and Property Management at Leeds Beckett University. He specialises in real estate economics with core interests in international real estate markets, housing and urban markets, property IT applications (Proptech) and operational real estate.

Ola has led and undertaken several funded and unfunded collaborative real estate research projects in the UK and internationally.

He holds a PhD in Real Estate and Urban Economics from Henley Business School, an MSc in International Real Estate Investment and Finance from Nottingham Trent University, and a BTech in Estate Management from the Federal University of Minna, Nigeria. Dr Oladiran’s career has been a fine blend of real estate industry experience and academic prowess; he is therefore keen on developing viable and evidence-based innovations that can revolutionise real estate operations and practice.

Professor Anupam Nanda

Anupam Nanda is Professor of Urban Economics & Real Estate at the School of Environment, Education & Development at The University of Manchester. He is a member of the Manchester Urban Institute (MUI) and Spatial Policy & Analysis Laboratory. He is also a member of the Board of the European Real Estate Society. Anupam holds undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD degrees in Economics, and he has almost 15 years of experience as a researcher, educator and consultant.

Prior to joining The University of Manchester in November 2019, he held the position of Professor of Urban Economics & Real Estate at Henley Business School/University of Reading, and worked in non-academic roles at Deloitte & Touche and the National Association of Home Builders (US).

Anupam’s research themes/sub-themes are: economics of property markets; urban and regional economies; real estate finance, investor sentiment and behaviour, cross-border investment; house price dynamics; impact of infrastructure projects, policy evaluation; Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) issues in property markets; role of technology in property market and urban environment.


– How does it feel to be this year’s recipients of the Harold Samuel Research Prize? 

Olayiwola Oladiran: I am elated to be a recipient of the second UCEM Harold Samuel Research Prize. It is indeed an honour that the research project proposed by Professor Anupam Nanda and I was selected and will be funded.

This feat transcends us – it goes to the future of real estate operations and practice as we seek to further enhance the application of digital and technological systems to real estate through the incorporation of Proptech education in Higher Education. We, therefore, accept the UCEM HSRP prize with a huge sense of responsibility and passion to carry on with the task.

– What inspired you to enter the competition? 

OO: Having completed a PhD in Real Estate and Urban Economics, I began to expand my research to the development of systems and operations in real estate which can support the efficient allocation and utilisation of resources.

In the course of my research, I realised that Proptech (the application of IT/digital systems to real estate) is indeed a key element of the future of real estate, having the ability to enhance the economic, social and environmental efficiency of the built environment.

At the turn of the new year, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown further affirmed the relevance and importance of Proptech in real estate operations and practice. Professor Nanda and I observed that despite the advancement in Proptech over the last few decades, there has been a disproportionate growth in Proptech-related empirical work, particularly in the area of Proptech education.

We also observed that there is currently no evidence-based approach to developing a formal Proptech educational framework for higher institutions. The higher educational system is a major real estate education vehicle; we, therefore, advanced the proposition that integrating Proptech in real estate higher education has the potential to further transform the Proptech space by creating a corps of real estate professional with the requisite skills and exposure to Proptech.

The UCEM Harold Samuel Research Prize call, therefore, presented an amazing opportunity for us to carry out this cutting-edge research. UCEM is renowned for its century-long history of leadership in the built environment; a competition associated with this institution was, therefore, suitable for executing the research. The Harold Samuel Research Prize is particularly distinct for its drive for innovation and creativity, with a focus on research projects that have the ability to lead scholarship and provide industry-changing insight in the built environment. This funding will therefore enable us to design a framework that may become the foundation for which the Proptech specialisation can be further strengthened and entrenched in higher education and by extension, the Proptech space.

 – What do you hope to achieve through undertaking the research? 

OO: There is currently no evidence of a pedagogical framework through which students of real estate in higher education can develop and become aware of the various IT/digital tools and their application to real estate. Our research will therefore be a significant contribution to real estate higher education and the Proptech development.

The Proptech transformation has so far accrued economic benefits such as commoditisation of space (which has led to more efficient and profitable use of space through online platforms and space sharing), fintech and peer-to-peer lending (which have created other non-traditional financial products). Digital applications to real estate also have environmental benefits such as the reduction in carbon emission through a decrease in the number of property viewings and physical inspections.

The output of this project will also serve as a pointer to different areas of Proptech education which can spark further debate and research and further serve as a reference point for the adoption of Proptech in some real estate departments in higher education institutions. This research will therefore be a massive contribution to enhancing Proptech education and by extension, the economic, environmental and social benefits that Proptech offers.

– What prompted you to get involved in real estate?

OO: Real estate is one of the most important resources that man has been endowed with – we live on it and it supports all our activities; we literally cannot survive without it.

Real estate is complex and heterogeneous in terms of location, type, size, use, etc. My involvement in real estate is closely linked to my keen interest in disentangling complex systems and processes, making sense of them, and rethinking ways of making them more efficient. I have spent a significant part of my time in industry and academia trying to understand the real estate market mechanisms, and my current research interest centres on developing systems and strategies that can enhance the efficiency of real estate operations and practice.

Anupam Nanda: As an economist, I find real estate sector is quite fascinating with a great deal of complexities.

– What do you enjoy about working in industry and academia?

OO: I have had a blend of experience in industry and academia. Working in industry provided me with valuable insight into the structure of real estate operations from a practical perspective. My transition to academia has also been very rewarding and fulfilling; it has significantly expanded my spectrum of impact.

In academia, I am saddled with the very important responsibility of supporting the learning experience of future industry leaders (students in higher education). I am also actively involved in research which provides a platform for me to be innovative and creative. Teaching and research are vital for shaping the current and future real estate trajectory; being in academia therefore provides a platform for me to make a difference in current and future real estate operations and practice.

AN: Real estate is very real – so, working with the realities of the industry and applying academic understanding is quite important, which is what I enjoy.

– How will the two of you work together in creating the research paper?

OO: Professor Nanda and I have worked together for several years. He supervised my PhD at Henley Business School and I enjoyed working with him. He is research-oriented, and he holds very high work and research ethics. We have co-authored peer-reviewed journal and international conference articles, and we are currently working on other areas of research. I look forward to working with him on this project.

AN: We have worked in the past and have a good understanding of what each of us can bring to the table.

– What do you expect to learn through your research?

OO: Our research aims to expand the scope of Proptech through its integration in real estate higher education. I look forward to gaining insight on the current approaches to Proptech education in higher education institutions.

I also expect to deepen my understanding of the most efficient methods of Proptech education planning and delivery, and how these can be integrated into the current educational structure. It is my expectation that this research will form the basis for further research on the development of a Proptech specialisation in education, research and professional practice.

AN: I would like to have a clearer understanding of the state of play and what we need to do to make sure Proptech issues are adequately dealt with in what we teach.

– What advice would you give to someone embarking on a research project?

OO: Developing a research plan is a very important step in the research process. A good plan will have timelines and provision for reflection, engagement and flexibility. There is a need to step back a bit and to analyse the research progress – this provides the opportunity to think of fresh ideas or approaches that can enhance the research.

Engagement through conversations and presentations can also help to improve the quality of research as the researcher is able to get valuable feedback and insight on the project. It is also important for a researcher to be flexible. Sometimes, certain constraints make it difficult to execute the research in the pre-defined form and a researcher should be able to make adjustments where and when necessary.

AN: For a successful research project, it is important to have clarity of thoughts, ability to foresee challenges and adequate preparation to be able to face those challenges.

Congratulations to you both, and we look forward to seeing the completed research next year!