University Alliance securing the future of UK research and innovation through collaboration and connectivity

Excellent research carried out by Plymouth University will be showcased in a new campaign launched by the University Alliance today, which brings together 60 impact case studies from the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 exercise. 

The case studies illustrate the excellent research happening in Alliance universities and its impact both in the UK and around the world. Alliance universities like Plymouth 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.  

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

Professor David Coslett, Interim Vice-Chancellor, said: 

“As the results of the Research Excellence Framework show, Plymouth University is a truly dynamic research institution, displaying world-leading and international excellence across the spectrum of health and medicine, business, arts and social sciences. That research underpins our teaching and learning, and it transforms lives thanks to the way we focus on achieving impact and tackling issues that affect our communities.”

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. 

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. 

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

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 REF saw our research power grow by 27 per cent 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. 

Plymouth has two case studies published in the resource. They are: 

  • New diagnostic tools improving treatments for MS patients (Improving healthcare)
  • Tackling chemical and plastic pollutants in the world’s oceans (Building sustainability)

The University is also taking part in the science fair at the launch event in the Royal Institution. They will showcase their research on tackling chemical and plastic pollutants in the world’s oceans (Building sustainability)

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.