My week - 24 February 2015 - Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation

Professor David Hogg discusses efforts to support and stimulate interdisciplinary research and impact.

Professor David Hogg

Part of our Strategic Plan is to create an environment in which interdisciplinary research can flourish, building on the strengths of our core disciplines. To this end, we are establishing a number of research themes that are externally facing and that cut across our faculties and disciplines. They each have huge potential to stimulate new fundamental research and generate new external impact that derives from this research.

Following superb presentations from  our academics towards the end of 2014, I’m delighted that we are now up and running with six interdisciplinary research themes – cities, culture, energy, water, food, and high-value engineering. A seventh theme on health will commence shortly. Many colleagues across the University were involved in getting us to this important stage, and I’d like to thank them and recognise their hard work. Theme leaders were appointed* at the beginning of the year and the priority now is to turn the theme plans into innovative interdisciplinary research projects. Some ambitious and far-reaching ideas have been proposed, and I believe that many people in the University will be able to use the themes as a way of making new contacts and creating new opportunities. It is exciting to watch how the individual projects are growing and taking shape.

We’re working on aligning the themes with the transformation fund projects and the Sector Hubs, so that structures are simpler and even more effective. There won’t be a single, uniform model – instead we’re looking at different solutions for different themes, but all with an objective of streamlining reporting so that it becomes theme reporting. It’s an opportunity to get rid of artificial barriers and be more joined up. The aim is to simplify rather than complicate, and this will also apply to the way we present the themes to our external audiences. There’s still work to be done but we’ve established the principles of what we want to achieve and are already making good progress.

In other related news of particular interest to our researchers, plans for a University Innovation and Enterprise Centre (UIEC) will be coming to Council later this year. A number of research working groups have identified the need for high-quality space where they can bring people from different disciplines together to discuss ideas and collaborate on projects. At present there’s very limited space to do this on campus, especially during term time when rooms are at a premium. The UIEC would provide a place where groups of people can come together for a morning, day, week, or even a month, to spend time working as part of a multi-disciplinary group.  As well as providing an incubation and business engagement space, the Centre would also be used to host collaborative meetings with both internal and external partners. It will be a very visible symbol of our continued commitment to achieving research excellence.


* Theme Leaders are as follows:  Cities – Gary Dymski and Phil Purnell; Culture – Frank Finlay; Energy – Andy Heyes; Food – Helen Miller: High Value Engineering – David York; Water – Joe Holden and Martin Tillotson.  A leader of the Health theme will be appointed shortly.

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