Alliance universities securing the future of UK research through collaboration and connectivity

Issue date: 12 March 2015

Excellent research carried out by UWE Bristol will be showcased in a new campaign launched by University Alliance today.

The resource contains more than 60 impact case studies submitted by Alliance universities to the REF 2014 exercise.

They illustrate the excellent research happening in Alliance universities and its impact both on here in the UK and around the world. Alliance universities like UWE Bristol are finding new ways, especially through collaborations with a wide range of local, national and global partners, to overcome socio-economic challenges: growing industries, improving healthcare, building sustainability and shaping society.

This unique collection of impact case studies will be launched at a high-profile event attended by parliamentarians, businesses and researchers in the Royal Institution, London.

The event will also launch a new report from University Alliance which concludes that collaboration and connectivity are essential for the UK to continue to lead the world in excellent research and innovation.

In response to this, Alliance universities are working collaboratively to deliver a new doctoral training scheme. The Doctoral Training Alliance will be built around joint research strengths and embed close relationships with industry from design to delivery.

Our research and innovation ecosystem is a national success story. But increased global competition means for it to continue to flourish it will need greater collaboration and more effective connections with different partners – within academia and with businesses, charities and governments.

The report, Evolve. Connect. Succeed. Funding a healthy research and innovation ecosystem sets out for the first time what is needed to future proof our ecosystem, in particular the need for greater collaboration and connectivity. It must be:

· selective so we continue to develop world-leading expertise;

· collaborative to maximise complementary strengths;

· responsive and relevant to the rest of society and industry; and

·committed to nurturing future capability.

Alliance universities have these characteristics built into their approach, demonstrating particular strengths that are well-suited to meet today's challenges.

The report concludes that continued and sustained investment is central to the success of the research and innovation ecosystem.

Maddalaine Ansell, Chief Executive of University Alliance, said:

“This is an important report. A world-class research and innovation ecosystem is critical to the UK's competitiveness and well-being.

“The challenge is to ensure it remains excellent through responding and adapting to fast-paced change and increased competition. This requires not only continued investment in universities but also efficient and effective use of the existing excellence and capability in the system.

“Alliance universities understand this. They are working collaboratively to deliver a new doctoral training system. This shows our commitment to maintaining the pipeline of researchers with relevant skills for the research ecosystem of the future. The Doctoral Training Alliance will be built around joint research strengths and embed close relationships with industry from design to delivery.”

Professor Steve West, Chair of University Alliance and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of England Bristol, said, “The UK has a smart way of funding research. Identifying where excellent research exists and then funding it ensures we have a strong research ecosystem and are able to compete globally. We recognise that the ecosystem's future success relies on balancing stability and dynamism. Long-term commitment to investment, distributed through our successful dual support system, is the right way to maintain this balance.

“Open competition must underpin every investment. The best research must be funded wherever it is found. In judging what is best, we must value connectivity within the research community and with the rest of society.

“Alliance universities are essential to the research ecosystem. We have particular strengths that equip us to meet today's challenges. The recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) saw our research power grow by 27% since 2008, and far outstrip the national average in quality improvement.”

The event will also offer Alliance universities an opportunity to showcase some of the excellent research taking place in their institutions through an interactive science fair including robots, turbocharger engines, the world's largest marine conservation area and 3D animations.

UWE Bristol has three case studies published in the resource. They are:

Advances in precision 3D measurement driving commercial growth (Growing industries)

Innovative techniques developed by the Centre for Machine Vision, for measuring the dimensions of difficult solid objects automatically in challenging environments have been taken up and used commercially. This research is led by the Centre's Director, Professor Melvyn Smith.

Creating marine reserves to tackle overfishing (Building sustainability)

Tom Appleby's research has been instrumental in major initiatives to tackle overfishing. These initiatives have been effective both in the UK's own coastal waters and elsewhere, and include the establishment of the world's largest marine reserve. Tom will present his research as part of the science fair at the launch event in the Royal Institution.

Improving the quality of air we breathe (Building sustainability and protecting health)

Research from the Air Quality Management Resource Centre has improved air quality management in the UK and around the world. Their findings has informed policy, official guidance and practice at the UK Government level, also in its devolved nations and regions as well as directly influenced policy in the EU, South Africa and Nigeria. The Centre is led by Professor Jim Longhurst.

Artie the robothespian, introduced by Professor Alan Winfield is also one of the stars of a film on research excellence to be launched at the event.

UWE Bristol's research with impact helped Bristol become European Green Capital 2015.

Together these stories provide compelling evidence that the strength and quality of the UK research and innovation ecosystem depends on the government continuing to fund excellence wherever it is found.

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