Graduation Magic

Towards the end of an undergraduate degree things start to fall in place: they did for me anyway. I learned how to study and how to learn, and I even dedicated a reasonable chunk of time to my studies, and loved it so much that I decided to continue my studies and registered for a PhD. My undergraduate graduation was in July 1985. I was an international student from a war torn country and so there was absolutely no way any family member could travel the thousands of miles to attend my graduation. They were too busy avoiding air raids and had become war refugees in their own country. And, if I am honest, I only attended it because my parents were keen for me to do so.

Once I joined academia, I witnessed many graduation ceremonies and have always been curious about local practices at different universities. Earlier last week, I had a meal with a friend from another institution and we were comparing notes on our universities graduation traditions. She told me that their VC’s speech lasts for one hour – can you imagine!! I thought Debra’s speech was one of the best VC speeches I have heard and it was just shy of 10 minutes, which was ideal.

Reflecting on all the graduations I have attended, it was not until my PhD students started to graduate that I realised the significance of this occasion and, by the time my son graduated in 2015, I was a fully-fledged graduation fan.

As you know, last week was our university’s graduation and my first graduation attendance here. I attended all but two of the ceremonies and I felt very proud about how we do our graduations. There is always a good atmosphere at graduations but I felt we had the perfect balance between creating a good celebratory atmosphere and not forgetting that we were there to celebrate the academic achievements of our graduates. A personal favourite of Maya Angelou quotes is: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”, and, last week, our university made all our graduates feel good about themselves, their experience with us and their achievements.

Brighton Centre was an excellent venue and the team worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all go smoothly. Over 3500 graduates, ranging in age between 19 and 79 and from 90 countries, became alumni of the University of Brighton. I had the privilege of doing an oration for one of our honorary graduates, Miranda Brawn, and meeting her was a real highlight for me.

My favourite part of the celebrations was meeting the students and their families afterwards. I tried to share some of these moments with others through Twitter and there were times when I felt that perhaps I could have had a career in marketing after all!!

On Friday evening I was tired but joyous. Of course, I will share a few suggestions on how we can improve the ceremonies further but they were all very special.

It was an excellent week and I wish the very best for the Class of 2017. I would like to leave them with this lovely phrase:

“Behind you, all your memories. Before you, all your dreams. Around you, all those who love you. Within you, all you need”.

Guest blog from Research Fellow Dr Mary Gearey

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It gives me a great pleasure to bring you this guest blog from Dr Gearey who shares with us her experience of returning to STEMM research and her contribution to the International Women in Engineering Day. 

Tara Dean, Pro Vice Chancellor Research & Enterprise

‘I can think of no better way to have celebrated ‘International Women in Engineering day’ on June 23rd than in the company of some of the UK’s most prestigMary Gearey at the eventious female scientists, researchers and practitioners, who are the leading lights of their discipline. Coming together to discuss career development within Engineering, and throughout the Sciences, from post-degree to senior management, I was an invited speaker at this one-day seminar held at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining’s (IOM3) head office in London. As a Research Fellow within the University of Brighton’s School of Environment and Technology, I shared my experiences of returning to STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) research in 2015 following a career break of several years. The all-women panel lead a series of discussions around how best to support gender equality within the workplace, particularly for those trying to balance working life and parenting commitments, and how to progress to a senior level in your chosen field.

My return to academia was enabled through the support of SET colleagues Professor Neil Ravenscroft and Dr Paul Gilchrist and initially championed by Dr Kemi Adeyeye, who heads the Water Efficiency Network (watefnetwork.co.uk), who mentored me and was the person who encouraged me to apply for a Daphne Jackson Trust Fellowship. The Daphne Jackson Trust provides STEMM scientists and researchers with career retraining Fellowships after a break of 2 years or more taken for family, health or caring reasons. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Fellowship in January 2015 to undertake a two year, part-time research project exploring community resilience to changing water environments along the River Adur in West Sussex, and I’m now working on the NERC funded WetlandLIFE project.

My talk outlined the process of successfully securing a Daphne JaPresenation at the International women in engineering dayckson Fellowship, to encourage those wishing to return to STEMM research, or practitioners wanting to return to academia from industry, to apply. I outlined the benefits of the Fellowship’s personalised retraining package both to the Fellow and their home institution, and highlighted the ways in which organisations looking to welcome experienced STEMM researchers, particularly female returners, and those thinking about developing their own research hubs, would benefit from sponsoring a Research Fellow.

Experienced researchers taking a career break find it almost impossible to return to academia after two or more years away. For those of us involved in STEMM research, developments in technology and best practice change so rapidly that many are concerned that if they decide to raise a family, or to take a career break for other reasons, they will never recover professionally. Through the support of my colleagues in SET and the University of Brighton, together with the Daphne Jackson Trust, I’ve shown it is possible to develop a work-life balance and restart a STEMM career.

Joining me as fellow presenters were Professor Serena Best from the University of Cambridge and Dr Artemis Stamboulis from the University of Birmingham, who shared their experiences of navigating STEMM academic careers with parenting. Professor Best highlighted the importance of working within academic institutions which recognize and support the need for flexible working in order to retain highly skilled and committed staff, whilst Dr Stamboulis outlined the benefits of international collaboration in helping organisations benchmark approaches which support equality in the workplace.  It was a great honour to be part of this prestigious panel and a welcome opportunity to celebrate the great work of both the Daphne Jackson Trust and the University of Brighton in championing returning STEMM researchers.’

Dr Mary Gearey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research and Enterprise Conference – 2017

On Monday 5th of June, we held the University’s inaugural Research and Enterprise Conference.  The purpose of the event was to inform colleagues of the national landscape and the opportunities and challenges for research and enterprise. Both our external speakers, Professor Sweeney and Dr Faye Taylor, did an excellent job in achieving this. I was also keen to share my journey as a relative newcomer to Brighton, to highlight our priorities for 2017/18 and to give colleagues an opportunity to ask questions. When I was working on my presentation, I realised that we have made phenomenal progress in the past nine months and we should all be proud of what we have achieved and excited about the journey ahead. The conference also served as a good platform to inform colleagues of external funding schemes that we need to explore further and Ingrid Pugh and Shona Campbell did an excellent double act in telling us about the opportunities that the GCRF and the Industrial Strategy offer. Professor Ravenscroft had literally stepped off a plane from China and I hope you agree that the plans for the Doctoral College that he described will make life so much easier for our PGRs and supervisors.

Everyone had been eagerly waiting for the presentations from the Brighton Futures academic leads. The conference was their first opportunity to share their thinking for each of the Futures. They do not officially start in their roles until August but they are already thinking about the road map for their area and how the Futures interconnect. The Brighton Futures are an exciting opportunity for us to build inter-disciplinarity and to showcase our research and enterprise activities.

The Research and Enterprise Excellence Awards were a perfect end to the conference and allowed us to recognise the achievements of many colleagues.

Above all, the conference was an excellent opportunity for our community to come together. When I welcomed everyone in the morning, it was so pleasing to look at the packed Huxley lecture theatre and see staff with different roles and responsibilities from across the University. My mentor once told me that people who want to make things better, rally around leaders who talk about making things better. I reflected after the conference on how excellent the attendance was and what a positive buzz surrounded the whole day and, without wishing to be big-headed, the truth of this statement came back to me. I want to make our research and enterprise better, I have a passion for excellence and I hope I have demonstrated that I confront what isn’t working with optimism!

Many of you sent me lovely emails after the conference saying how much you enjoyed the day and found it helpful and informative. One of the best comments was from a colleague who has been with us for just a few years who said: “For the first time in a couple of years now, I felt part of a community that had a mission and purpose.”

Of course, while our week started with an event that provided a positive and upbeat message on the future potential for research and enterprise at Brighton, the week ended very differently for the nation. The turnout was much higher than in previous elections but I wonder what the outcome would have been if all eligible people had voted. As Plato said: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”.  I have made this country my home but I genuinely never thought we would find ourselves in the position we are in now……

But, coming back to the Research and Enterprise Conference, I will end this blog by thanking you all for supporting it and contributing to its success.  Visit our Research and Enterprise Conference webpage to find out more about the programme, presenters and awards.

Brighton Futures

In September, with support from my team, I started a series of School meetings and met hundreds of staff for the very first time.  I wanted to share my approach to developing the strategic plan for R&E, to obtain a better insight into those areas where we have real strengths and to hear from staff about those areas they felt would present particular challenges to progressing research and enterprise and, of course, to start the dialogue on what we mean by enterprise!!!  Nine months on, we have progressed in leaps and bounds!  We now have an ambitious strategic plan for R&E with a detailed implementation plan and we have reviewed our core structures for supporting R&E, both in terms of the leadership and systems we need to reach our ambitions.  Many of us from across the university (library, RESP, DRDs, IS, Finance) have been involved in reviewing tenders for a new Research Information Management System (RIMS) and a small team are visiting other institutions to see our shortlisted options in action.  By the time you read this, a few colleagues will be on their way to the University of Bangor!  Having a fit for purpose RMIS will be a real step forward and will make life so much easier for all of us.

As usual I digressed. I wanted to talk about how, during the School meetings, there was a reassuring consistency in the areas where we all felt we have strength in terms of area of enquiry, critical mass and profile, as well as reputation. Universities usually showcase these area under ‘themes’.  It is, in my view, important that these themes reflect interdisciplinary working and strengths.  Many institutions just badge these under broad challenges, such as integrated health, sustainability, cancer, risk and security, etc., but these do not, generally, reflect the essence of the institution.  So, we got to the last School meeting at the School of Health Science, Eastbourne.  It was a hot afternoon and it is fair to say we were quite tired by then.  After the meeting, we started to debate how we could use terms which would be novel, forward looking and reflect areas of existing strength.  Eventually, the term ‘Brighton Futures’ was coined!  Wind the clock forwards few months and we have been interviewing for academic leads for each of our five Brighton Futures.  When the call for expressions of interest went out, a colleague asked me: ‘do you really think individuals will come forward?”. I must admit that took me back a bit.  I had not for a second contemplated the possibility of staff not volunteering to do this.  The question unsettled me but then the expressions of interest started to arrive and I relaxed a bit and, by the deadline, I was delighted that 16 people volunteered.  We interviewed everyone. Through this process, I got to know a couple of colleagues that I had not previously had the opportunity to meet and what a pleasure it was to see their enthusiasm and dedication.  We have some excellent colleagues here at Brighton!

I am pleased to share with you that we have now appointed academic leads for all the Brighton Futures: Prof. Kath Browne (Responsible Futures), Prof. Matteo Santin (Healthy Futures), Dr Mark Devenney (Radical Futures), Prof. David Cotterrell (Creative Futures) and Prof. Karen Cham (Connected Futures).  I am really looking forward to working with them.  There will be a slot at the Research and Enterprise Conference (5th of June) where you will be able to hear from them.  There will be plenty of opportunities for you participate in the Brighton Futures activities once their plans are firmed up.

Exciting times ahead….

Assessing Research

Our University’s REF steering group last met two weeks ago and Professor Andrew Church mentioned that a number of HEIs are adopting specific initiatives to assess research.  We will consider these initiatives more closely over the coming months but I would like to share these with you now.

Firstly, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (usually referred to as San Francisco DORA) is one that has been referred to fairly frequently.  I first heard of DORA in 2015 when I read ‘The Metric Tide’, the report of the independent review of the role of metrics in research assessment and management. This report recommended that institutions sign up to DORA and, since then, the uptake among UK institutions has been growing: DORA now has over 12,000 signatories worldwide of which 10 or so are from the UK and include Sussex, Manchester, Imperial, Brunel, Edinburgh and UCL.

DORA was initiated by the American Society of Cell Biology and a group of publishers and journal editors back in 2012 in order to “improve the ways in which the outputs of scientific research are evaluated”.  It centres on the belief that there is an over-reliance on bibliometrics, such as the Journal Impact Factor, which is seen by many as flawed.  Other key themes are that research needs to be evaluated on its own merit (not on which journal it’s published in) and that we need to make the best of the flexibility afforded by online publishing.

DORA makes a general recommendation that bibliometrics should not be used as a “surrogate measure” for the quality of research and then makes a number of specific recommendations for publishers, academic institutions, research funders, organisations that supply metrics and individual researchers.  All the aforementioned are invited to sign DORA.

For a university, signing DORA would mean it is obliged to:

  • Be explicit about the criteria it uses for the assessment of research and researchers
  • Reinforce that the content of research is what is important (rather than what metric scores it has or what journal it is published in)
  • Consider the value and impact of all research outputs
  • Consider using a variety of measures to assess research and researchers

So, why have only a handful of UK universities signed it?  Some would say DORA feels rather negative in tone and I have even heard some referring to it as an ‘anti-journal metric triade’.

Subsequent to the publication of DORA, the bibliometric experts at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies in Leiden, in collaboration with Professor Diana Hicks (Georgia Tech), published the Leiden Manifesto in April 2015.  This, too, is set against the “Impact Factor obsession” and offers “best practice in metrics-based research assessment so that researchers can hold evaluators to account, and evaluators can hold their indicators to account”.  The manifesto recommends 10 principles that are derived from the best practices of (quantitative) bibliometric exercises.

The following is a very brief summary of the principles:

  1. Quantitative evaluation should support qualitative, expert assessment
  2. Measure the performance against the research objectives of the institution, group or researcher
  3. Protect excellence in locally relevant research
  4. Keep data collection and analytical processes open, transparent and simple
  5. Allow those evaluated to verify data and analysis
  6. Account for variation by field in publication and citation practices
  7. Base assessment of individual researchers on a qualitative judgement of their portfolio
  8. Avoid misplaced concreteness and false precision
  9. Recognise the systemic effect of the assessment and indicators
  10. Scrutinise indicators regularly and update them

In an effort to make the manifesto as accessible as possible, there is a really neat video version which is well worth watching: .

I must admit, I feel a lot more comfortable with the Leiden Manifesto, which takes a more positive approach: a balanced call for the sensible, contextualised and transparent use of all publication metrics.  There is no option to sign up to this but, earlier this year, both the University of Bath and Loughborough University announced that they have developed a set of principles to assess their research which draws upon Leiden Manifesto.  At our next REF steering group, we will discuss both these initiatives at length and deciding whether they can inform our approach.

Research and Enterprise update

A lot has happened on the R&E front, both within the university and externally, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to update you all.

The REF2021 consultation is now closed following a couple of months of fairly intense activity, gathering views from colleagues internally via School consultations, meeting and discussing the practicality of what has been proposed and what impact it will have to University Alliance institutions. And, of course, there were the HEFCE town meetings which highlighted many areas of sector consensus, irrespective of the research intensity of institutions. As predicted in my earlier blog, the key issues remain the approach to submission of staff, non-portability of outputs and institutional impact case studies.  HEFCE has received over 370 responses and we look forward to hearing the outcome of the consultation in the autumn.  Read our response (PDF).

Our REF Steering Group met few weeks ago and we will start to assess our REF outputs once we know the outcome of consultation. We already have some insight on the quality of our outputs through the previous ‘Strategic Review Process’ but we will start our REF preparations in a more comprehensive and systematic way later in the year.

The Industrial Strategy is under consultation and Shona Campbell wrote a really informative guest blog which summarises the opportunities that this strategy offers. The deadline for submission of responses is mid-April and we will be sharing our response over the next few weeks.

Our Strategic R&E Plan was approved in January and, earlier this month, the University Management Board approved the associated Implementation Plan (IP).  I wish to express my particular thanks to the Deputy Heads of School for R&E: although a small group of us within the R&E management team worked extremely hard in preparing the first draft of the IP, the input of the Deputy Heads during our first away day was key. The IP will remain a live document and we will need to review it regularly, but I am very proud of it and very pleased that each objective will be delivered via discrete action plans. Deputy Heads will be sharing the IP via their School meetings and you will have an opportunity to see it for yourself.  It will be our road map over the next four years as we start to grapple with all the objectives we have set ourselves. Naturally, as it is with any plan, not every aspect will be dealt with in the first year. Having said this, there are number of immediate actions and high on the priority list are the Brighton Futures and Centres of Excellence in Research and Enterprise (COREs). On Friday, you would have seen a call from me for expressions of interest to lead the Brighton Futures. These are vital, mainly externally facing, roles to build and promote partnerships internally and externally and to horizon-scan opportunities for the Brighton Futures.  If you are keen to find out more, please get in touch with me.  The deadline for EOIs is 13 April.

Also this week, I will be circulating the call for COREs. The call will be cascaded via the Deputy Heads and will also be issued directly to Directors of existing centres. A number of you have already asked for draft criteria and are already working on your applications.  Professor Ashworth led on preparation of the policy and operational document for COREs and I know he scrutinised many models from across the sector so I am confident that the document we now have is sector-leading. The deadline for submission of applications is the end of May and we hope to launch the COREs in the new academic year.

Also high on the priority list for this year is to ensure our Quality Related (QR) income is used to support the research infrastructure and help the delivery of the Strategic R&E plan. The majority of QR is invested via Schools and, for 17/18, we need to make sure that tis investment is aligned to the implementation of the Strategic R&E plan, so Schools are being asked to articulate this as part of the annual planning process.

We are now finalising the programme for our R&E Conference and registration will open this week. At about the same time we will issue our first R&E newsletter. We hope to have three editions annually, and I hope this will be a platform for you to contribute and keep updated.  So, watch out for the first issue!

A great deal happening over the next few months …..

Tara Dean, Pro-Vice Chancellor Research Enterprise

Guest blog – Shona Campbell outlines the opportunities within the Industrial Strategy Green Paper

I am pleased to bring you the first of my guest blogs. This blog is written by our newly appointed Knowledge Exchange manager Shona Campbell. It summarises the opportunities within the Industrial Strategy Green Paper and what we are doing centrally to ensure we are in a good position to respond to them.

Tara’s blog in February explored the Industrial Strategy green paper (open for consultation until April 17th) noting that ‘Investing in science, research and innovation’ is one of the ten pillars upon which the strategy is built. Undoubtedly the most significant aspect for the research base is the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) to which a total of £4.7 billion has been committed, starting with an investment of £270 million in 2017-18, rising to an extra £2 billion per year by 2020-21. The fund will back technologies where the UK has the potential to take an industrial lead, supporting all stages from early research to commercialisation. With the first Challenges announced (read on!) it is timely to share what we know, what we don’t, and what we’re doing about it across the university.

In late January/early February, industry and the research base were invited to inform the definition and prioritisation of Challenges to be issued by Innovate UK & RCUK (UKRI) through a series of workshops and a consultation. I represented the University at one of the workshops (which were incredibly popular with 4 times more applicants than there were places). Areas which were consulted on don’t come as a great surprise and are very much in line with Innovate UK sector priorities:

  • Bioscience and biotechnology
  • Leading edge healthcare and medicine
  • Manufacturing processes and materials of the future
  • Smart, flexible and clean energy technologies
  • Quantum technologies
  • Robotics and artificial intelligence
  • Satellites and space technologies
  • Transformative digital technologies
  • Integrated and sustainable cities
  • Technologies for the creative industries

Workshop participants were presented with several straw man Challenges within each area and charged with rewriting them, discarding them, combining them, splitting them up, identifying whole new Challenges, then pitching those considered to be highest priority to participants who then, in low-tech fashion, each voted for their preferences using colourful stickers. Debate was intense, parochial in places but largely constructive, and it will be interesting to see what emerges from the consultation and what weight was given to the aforementioned stickers! Progress has clearly been made as the first Challenges were announced in this week’s budget:

  • Development, design and manufacture of batteries to power the next generation of electric vehicles;
  • Artificial intelligence and robotics systems to operate in extreme and hazardous environments;
  • New medicine manufacturing technologies to accelerate patient access to new drugs and treatments.

What else can we predict at this point in time? We expect at least the early Challenges to have quick turnarounds as Innovate UK is under pressure to spend (not just allocate) ISCF budget in 2017/18. We can already see that projects that can spend money early will be prioritised: ahead of any Challenges being issues the partnership for a high scoring but unsuccessful proposal involving Roger Evans from Computing, Engineering & Maths that fits within Technologies for the creative industries has been asked to confirm willingness to re-submit, without amendment or a full re-assessment) so there is potential for the early bird to catch the worm!

With the university’s research expertise aligning with many of the ISCF areas, and a great track record of business-industry collaboration, the Knowledge Exchange team are delving into the detail of the potential Challenges and will be in touch with academics over the coming weeks to encourage and provide support to respond to announced Challenges, gear up for anticipated competitions, positioning ourselves to bring together strong consortia to develop valuable impactful collaborative projects. May the challenge commence!

Competition launch details aren’t available at the time of writing so we don’t yet know the format; a variety of funding mechanisms were consulted on but we can be confident that Collaborative R&D grants will play a significant part.

University of Brighton’s Sabbatical Awards for 17/18

Sabbatical leave has been around for over a century and, if you look into its history, you may be surprised to find it originated in Australia in the 1860s when the University of Sydney granted leave of absence to its Professors on the grounds that it “would be highly conducive to the interests of the University”. It was not until the 1920’s that Oxford and Cambridge where the early adopters in the UK.

Although it started to become standard practice, not everyone was in favour of it and, in 1931, Arthur Currie, the principal of McGill University, dismissed sabbatical leave as unnecessary and extravagant.

“Seeing that our summer vacations are so long,” he wrote. “The need of a sabbatical year does not arise to the same extent as in those institutions where the terms are spread more generally over the whole year. With us … a professor is given a four months’ vacation. I notice that many of them spend it teaching in summer schools – or fishing, or enjoying themselves in some other way.”

This view, quite frankly, annoys me and, over half a century later, I hope it is not held by many. Research is not a leisure activity and sabbatical leave should not be the exclusive privilege of professors. We want to encourage researchers to develop achievable and sensible plans for their sabbatical leave, and to be accountable for delivering against these plans. Such a planning/application process can be useful in setting sensible and achievable goals, and I think there needs to be some measure of accountability for how that time is used. Ultimately, there is a cost associated with running a sabbatical scheme and it is only fair for universities that run this scheme (and let me assure you that not all universities do) to make sure the sabbatical is designed to benefit both the individual and the institution. This is why I believe a sabbatical should not be a right…. but should be a ‘right to apply’…

Two of the universities I used to work at gave sabbaticals which required others in the department to cover the duties of the individual on sabbatical. This is, by and large, the model in research-intensive institutions, where the proportion of staff involved in research is high and almost every academic staff member involved in research which will draw on a sabbatical at some point.

I am pleased that we have been operating a sabbatical scheme for many years and my records show that, since 2012/2013 alone, the institution has committed almost £1M to cover the costs associated with sabbaticals. This year’s round was the first that I was involved in. When I joined the University, I asked the Research Office to provide me with a report on the success of the scheme and whether the pledged milestones had been met by staff who had secured a sabbatical. Sadly, the emerging picture was not as positive as I had hoped. Nevertheless, I feel this is a scheme we must continue with but, perhaps, with a clearer articulation of expectations.

So, we have simplified the process with a one-step application and introduced a cap of £10k so we can support more staff. There was a good evidence from previous rounds that many applications fell below £10K (in 2016/17 for example the average level of support requested was £9,012) and, although I have picked up concerns that introducing this cap could lead to fewer applications, I am pleased to report that we received the highest number of applications since the scheme began.

This year, only three applications came from Professors, so the sabbatical scheme is being used to support rising stars, ECRs and middle-career staff wanting to increase the intensity of their research activity, which is really pleasing to note. In total, we received 46 applications (26 in 2016/2017) and awarded 11 sabbaticals. Colleagues in the College of Arts and Humanities were the main beneficiaries, with 6 awards being granted to staff there.

When the panel met, each application was read and independently rated by two reviewers: applications were then discussed by the whole panel. There was a good consensus between the reviewers and we had many high quality applications. Going forward, with the permission of the applicants, we will be making some of these high quality applications available on sharepoint so future candidates can learn from them.

All successful candidates have now been notified and I wish them all the best in achieving their goals.

Industrial Strategy Green Paper

Industrial Strategy Green Paper – Tara Dean, Pro-Vice Chancellor Research & Enterprise

The Government issued the ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ Green Paper towards the end of January, inviting views on its plans to support growth and improve living standards across the UK.  It has taken me few weeks to read it carefully and I can share that the strategy is a clear signal that the approach to economic growth is changing, and the catalyst is Brexit.

The Strategy recognises that the UK must become more innovative, build on its world-leading science base and develop its skills base; that it must create the right institutions to bring sectors and places together; and that it must cultivate its world-leading sectors. Universities can play a vital role in achieving these ambitions. The priorities are to increase ‘productivity’, close the gap with global competitor nations and to rebalance the economy of the UK in regional terms.

Active engagement in the many aspects of developing and delivering the Industrial Strategy will be crucial for universities’ self-interest. UK universities support more than 750,000 jobs (2.7% of all UK employment) and generate an economic output in excess of £73 billion a year. The UK’s Higher Education sector is the envy of the world, and the Government could make use of the vast knowledge our universities cultivate and communicate.  The UK is home to exceptional universities and people travel from so many different countries to experience our Higher Education system. The links universities build internationally – whether through partnerships, overseas campuses or recruiting international students – can have a positive impact in terms of soft-power. UK universities can play an increasingly important role in fostering international relationships and I hope that the strategic importance of the Higher Education sector will be reflected in the Industrial Strategy as the Government moves forward with its proposals.

University Alliance has published a paper setting out how Alliance universities can help government deliver its ambitions for growth.  The document, Universities: delivery partners for industrial strategy, sets out how, by working closely with business, Alliance universities produce high-level skills and support high-value innovation.  Universities are not only deeply rooted in their cities and surrounding regions but have networks that span different economic and administrative boundaries within the UK.

The Industrial Strategy is built on what the Government is calling 10 ‘pillars’:

  • Investing in science, research and innovation
  • Developing skills
  • Upgrading infrastructure
  • Supporting businesses to start and grow
  • Improving procurement
  • Encouraging trade and inward investment
  • Delivering affordable energy and clean growth
  • Cultivating world-leading sectors
  • Driving growth across the whole country
  • Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places

The Green Paper is strong on research and innovation.  The new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (£2bn/yr in steady state by 2020-21) will be delivered primarily through the newly established UKRI.  Exactly how UKRI will do this is still not clear.  When it comes to skills, the document is quite vague.  Degree apprenticeships and postgraduate taught provision are not mentioned at all, which does make one wonder if the role of universities in the skills supply line has been appreciated at all.

Overall, this Green Paper is a stage in a process. The Government appears to be seeking a coherent and consistent strategy which will lead to the formulation of a set of policies that are designed to improve the performance of the economy. Time will tell whether this stronger embracing of industrial strategy is any more successful than its predecessors.

The Green Paper is open for consultation until 17 April 2017.

Research and Enterprise Strategic Plan 2017-2021

Research and Enterprise Strategic Plan 2017-2021 – Tara Dean, Pro-Vice Chancellor Research & Enterprise

I am delighted to confirm that the Research and Enterprise Strategic Plan (2017-2021) was approved by the University Management Board on Friday 20thJanuary.   I can’t remember who it was who said that planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now.  This is exactly what we hope to do with our Strategic Plan.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have been visiting our different campuses to update staff on progress with the plan and its implementation.  When you look at other universities’ research and enterprise/innovation strategies, it is obvious how similar they are. They all talk about taking the institute from point A to point B, with B being a better place.  So, they all aspire to a better performance in REF, more external funding, more PgRs, more partnerships and impact.  What differentiates a good strategy from a bad one is how it will be implemented.  Sadly, many strategies fall down at this point and become a Strategy Put On The Shelf (SPOTS) and I have worked in institutions where this has been the case.  Following the fanfare launch of the strategy, everyone is waiting and nothing happens till the next strategy is put in place and the cycle continues.  I am determined that this will not be the case with our Strategic Plan. This is precisely why we have already started to think of the workstreams which will enable the delivery of the strategic goals and objectives.  I am acutely aware that not everyone will be behind all the changes that need to happen: right from the start, there will be the sceptics, the early adopters and those who will resist all the changes.  A plan is only as good as those who see it through, and I know there are many of us who want to see it through and more and more of you will get behind it as you see it being implemented.  As I went round the campus talking to staff, I felt that many of you are keen to engage with the Plan and help it realise its potential.

In few weeks’ time, I will approaching my 6 month anniversary here at Brighton. When I started, I went round every School talking about the need to develop a plan.  At times, I felt that many were ambivalent, questioning and not convinced at all.  Six months on, I can sense a big change and the emails I have received indicate that many of you are eager to get behind the principles and objectives stated in the Plan.  Many have already volunteered to take a more active role in implementing it.   As Professor Howie Rush reminded me at one of the campus meetings, to deliver on 7 goals and 35 objectives is quite an ambitious task, and I could not agree more.  But, we should not shy away from it.  All the objectives are needed and we need to be ambitious.  Intelligence without ambition is like a bird without wings.  Providing we are ambitious, plan well, work hard and keep a close eye on progress, we will make it.

My final word has to be to thank you all for your contributions during the consultations and for all your insightful contributions and comments at various fora and meetings and by emails. Whilst implementing the plan I will do my best to exercise a leadership that will serve the institution and all those within it who are passionate about research and enterprise.

This will be a new era for us and our work has just begun!