Inside Track | Introducing the Horizons Institute

In this Inside Track feature, Professor Stuart Taberner shares his vision for the Horizons Institute – our dynamic new cross-campus research incubator for innovative interdisciplinary research.

Global challenges require global solutions. But the solutions we seek are multi-dimensional – they require inclusive, blue-sky collaborations if we’re to stand any chance of ‘cracking the code’.

While Leeds has established a strong tradition of excellent interdisciplinary research, if we can further break down the barriers between disciplines, sectors, researchers and the communities they serve, we can develop truly novel and impactful answers to many of the most pressing questions confronting the world today. Challenges posed by the likes of climate change, disease, health inequalities, conflict and forced displacement, for example, are far too complex to be addressed in isolation.

Eureka moments also require considerable leaps of imagination, mixed with self-confidence and ample time and space to think. 

But how do we bring about this radical transformation in our ways of working?

This is where the Horizons Institute comes in.

Bold new approach

I’m delighted to have been appointed as the first Director of the Horizons Institute. From the conversations I’ve had with colleagues across the University, it’s clear we share a vision to inspire research that resonates through the boldness of its interdisciplinary approaches, and the relevance and urgency of its outcomes on the greater global good. 

The Horizons Institute is an incubator for new ideas – it exists to support and foster truly innovative, early-stage collaborations between researchers and external stakeholders, including policymakers, non-profit organisations, charities, businesses and the public. Our purpose is to provide an arena for academics to come together and develop their skills and networks, building diverse teams designed to cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries. 

Our plan is for the Horizons Institute to become the ‘go-to’ place for curious minds who are seeking equally inspired individuals, and that it will give us time and space to reflect, anticipate and speculate. The ambition is to create new opportunities for everyone and to transform the way we do research at Leeds.

This is where you come in.

Novel ideas

We want researchers at all career stages to get involved in the four pillars that underpin the activities of the Horizons Institute: 

  • our headline theme
  • challenge themes
  • Global Academy; and 
  • partnerships for societal impact and innovation.

We’re looking for genuinely novel ideas that require the expertise and excitement of people from across a wide range of disciplinary areas, and that our team of outstanding facilitators can help to develop.

We offer a nurturing environment and a transformative ethos. One important feature of this offering is our Global Academy, which will assemble a cohort of primarily Early Career Researcher (ECR) leaders across the University, complemented by their international counterparts. The key objective is to create a path for academics to build careers, broker new collaborations and enrich the research and innovation culture at Leeds and around the world, ultimately becoming tomorrow’s leaders in interdisciplinary research.

This is where we come in.

Ground-breaking research

During the past few months, I’ve been working with our Head of Interdisciplinary Research, Samantha Aspinall, to recruit a team, align our ambitions with the University’s Research Transformed strategy and launch some of our first programmes. 

The Horizons Institute is currently supporting ground-breaking research on mental health, physical activity and movement, antimicrobial resistance and space. These are the first of our challenge themes, designed to address specific societal, scientific or technological issues of global significance. 

These challenge themes will, in turn, feed into our overarching headline theme – a major, biennial, University-wide initiative that will promote changes to our research culture and ways of working. To kick-start the Horizons Institute, the inaugural headline theme is seeking to answer a question of truly global importance: What comes after the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals?

We would love you to come forward and help shape our events around this question, engaging with our exciting programme of opportunities.

And this is where we all come in.

Sign up to find out more

We would like to invite you to our upcoming virtual Leeds Conversations events, where we look forward to explaining the Horizons Institute in much more detail and having a great conversation about how you can help drive forward this exciting initiative.

Each online session will provide the opportunity to meet the new Horizons team and some of our Challenge Theme leads, discovering more about the innovative approaches they’ve adopted in their specific research areas. There will also be details of how you can get involved in the Horizons Institute and the opportunity to ask any questions you might have.

We look forward to seeing you.

In the meantime, if you simply can’t wait until May and want to find out more now, please visit our website or follow us on Twitter. You can also contact me, Samantha or our Institute Manager, Lauren Wray, via email.

I truly believe that through novel interdisciplinary collaborations, we can broaden our research horizons to identify solutions to some of the greatest global challenges of our time. I’m excited to meet with you to hear your amazing ideas about how we can achieve these ambitions together.

Related links

Research Transformed – the podcast (Horizons Institute section)