Inside Track | Research Transformed – key things to know

Professor Nick Plant, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, shares his key takeaways following the Leeds Conversations events on Research Transformed.

Nick Plant Inside Track February 2018

During the past two months, I hosted three Leeds Conversations events on Research Transformed. If you missed the events or would like to listen again, you can watch a recording of the second Leeds Conversations event – Research Transformed: Enabling our research to thrive into the future 

We had a huge number of questions during these sessions, along the key themes of work, funding, efficiencies and our new institutes. We couldn’t answer all the questions during the events, but I will be sharing a podcast next week to answer some of the key questions raised.

If I was to capture and share one key takeaway from the event, it would be this:

Our research is amazing, and we are rightly proud of it. Not only does it truly change the way people think about the world, but it also helps to develop those disruptive solutions that allow us to address global challenges. 

The work we do inspires future generations. We want to ensure we can continue to build on our excellent work, ready for those future generations to take over and make the next step.

However, the challenge is ahead of us

The research landscape has changed dramatically. It feels like we have gone through a series of seismic shifts that will continue to play out during the coming years. These shifts have widened global inequalities, along with social and economic challenges that will take years to address – as a University and a world, I believe we are at an inflection point.

This is what Research Transformed is about

As an institution, we have coped well with these shifts, but Research Transformed will ensure that we position ourselves in the best way to be able to develop our staff to deliver those much-needed solutions and continue to do the research that genuinely makes us world leading.

By being more focused in our research and thinking globally – viewing our University as part of a global network of institutions – we’ll be in an amazing position to truly change the world.

But we need to be ‘people first’. Our colleagues supporting and delivering research are an enormous force of strength. We want to support them to do their best – the world needs it – which is what Research Transformed is all about.

5 ways we’re delivering Research Transformed

Research Transformed brings together five workstreams that are already underway: 

1. Academic development and performance

People are at the heart of what we do. We need to support all our staff to be the best that they can be, and create an environment in which all colleagues can thrive. The Fairer Future for All initiative will help us refresh and review our development processes, support colleagues to develop alongside their ambitions and offer them the opportunities to become the best they can be.

This initiative will also help us reduce short-term contracts and boost job security. With that security comes the confidence and appetite to take risks. This will feed into the whole ambition that we want to generate through Research Transformed.

2. Horizon scanning

We must understand how our research portfolio needs to evolve over the strategy period, ensuring we continue to push the boundaries of knowledge and create lasting impact. 

The horizon-scanning activity, being led by the Pro-Deans for Research and Innovation, is an opportunity for us to crowd source that insight and understanding, and come together as a community to identify big research challenges and develop the requisite ambition and confidence to meet them head on.

3. Research culture

For our researchers, research staff and students to thrive, we must develop a safe, supportive and inclusive environment, where diversity increases creativity and reduces inequalities, and where all contributions to research are equally recognised. 

We can only deliver on that if we have a positive and inclusive research culture and environment. Dr Cat Davies, Dean for Research Culture, discusses this work further in her Inside Track | Improving our research culture. This work will make the University a truly diverse and inclusive place, and that’s critical to generate the creativity and ambition that we want. 

4. Research efficiency and sustainability 

We invest a huge amount of time and money in research. To meet our strategic ambitions, we must be efficient throughout the entire research lifecycle, to ensure we recover as much of the cost of research as possible and make the most of that time and money investment.

5. Metric analysis 

The final workstream is about data. We cannot make strategic decisions without having robust and appropriate data to inform them. 

For more detail on each of these workstreams, watch the recording of the second Leeds Conversations event – Research Transformed: Enabling our research to thrive into the future 

Introducing our new institutes

Our strategy, Universal Values Global Change, sets out a vision for how we can bring together research and education to deliver global impact, driving down inequalities and creating a fairer future for all as a result.

A key vehicle for doing this will be the establishment of the Horizons Institute and four new Futures Institutes that will complement our existing institutes. 

The four new Futures Institutes will have two main aims:

  • First, through a focus on interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary collaboration, to generate additional academic impact and benefits that can’t be achieved by individual faculties or schools alone. 
  • Second, to enhance the University’s reputation and impact in addressing major global challenges.  

The Futures Institutes will deliver both multi-disciplinary research and postgraduate education, with each reinforcing and supporting the other, all with a sharp focus on international partnerships.

Initially, the Futures Institutes will be aligned with areas where we can create the greatest impact and have real strength and expertise:

  • Health Futures
  • Climate Futures
  • Education Futures
  • Societal Futures

The Futures Institutes will operate in tandem with the new Horizons Institute, a research incubator that will support and foster early-stage, highly innovative collaborations between researchers and external stakeholders to address vital global challenges that cut across disciplinary boundaries.

Novel research concepts initiated through the Horizons Institute may subsequently be adopted and developed by the Futures Institutes (or multi-faculty institutes and centres), so that they deliver impact and bring real benefits to those that need them most.


We’ll be sharing more information about the five Research Transformed workstreams, the Horizons Institute and the Futures Institutes soon. 

Please listen out for my podcast next week where I answer some of the key questions raised at the Leeds Conversations events, you can also email your comments, ideas or questions to

See also

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