Despite having spent much of the year in lockdown, I am delighted to report that research and innovation activities at the University continue.
University COVID-19 fund
In April we launched the University COVID-19 fund for short term projects addressing and mitigating current and future health, social, economic and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. The call has generated exceptional interest and we have now allocated funding to twenty research projects in collaboration with partners across the region, including Bradford Council and Bradford Teaching Hospital, to support COVID-19 efforts.
The highlights of our funding are:
We are building on our values that support those most vulnerable across projects understanding the impact of the pandemic on Dementia patients and Carers in care homes; health of asylum seekers and refugees; migrant pregnant women; and on healthcare staff and their families in the Yorkshire region. This learning will help shape interventions and provide future learning and best practices.
We are utilising our expertise in AI, Data Analytics and Visualisation in projects to improve diagnostics and prognostics in medical imaging; checking the reliability of published data sources; providing improved healthcare quality monitoring during the pandemic; developing new visualisation techniques to enable deeper understanding of risk factor combinations; and developing approaches to model optimal social distancing.
Staff in our Faculty of Management, Law & Social Sciences are actively engaging across diverse research activities, including food waste generation during the pandemic; the educational impact on students of University closure and introduction of online teaching; managing panic buying behaviour; the resilience of the UK SME manufacturing sector; feasibility of hyperlocal delivery business models, and a project to bring together a post-COVID-19 recovery plan for small and micro business and entrepreneurs in the Yorkshire region.
In December, I was delighted to be able to host an evening event where we showcased some of our COVID-19 related research.
Despite the pandemic our research in other areas has also been making tremendous strides. Our exciting pilot project to create ‘green concrete’ which vastly reduces carbon dioxide production has won its category in this year’s Newton Prize Fund awards and has huge implications for the construction industry. The Newton Fund develops science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and welfare of collaborating countries. The environmentally friendly reusable interlocking blocks could change the building industry forever and prevent millions of tons of CO2 from being pumped into the atmosphere. Elsewhere, our archaeologists have discovered what could be one of the largest prehistoric sites in the UK at Stonehenge. And we continue to improve global healthcare through our collaborations and pioneering research projects into eye disease, a new pain relief ‘smart gel’, and by looking into how circular economy principles might be used to improve maternal and infant health care in Tanzania. This list of research projects is by no means exhaustive and just gives you a glimpse into some of our work this year. You can find out more in your regular Bradford Graduate e-newsletters.
We have also been busy developing four new sub-strategies that underpin the new University strategy, and I am responsible for the implementation and delivery of two of those – research and innovation; and business and community engagement.
Research and Innovation Strategy
In May, the University Council approved our new Research and Innovation (R&I) Strategy.
The strategy reaffirms the University’s commitment to delivering open research and innovation that is conducted and delivered with honesty and integrity, and is recognised by our academic peers, industry and third sector partners as being of the highest quality, and delivers tangible impacts on society and the economy at local, regional, national and international scales. Considering world events at the moment, that commitment is crucial.
The focus of our revised strategy is on enhancing the excellence, significance and reach of our research and innovation activities, so that we can deliver an improvement in the quality and quantity of our research and innovation activities, allowing us to grow and make major contributions to the solution of globally significant issues. The strategy also recognises the University’s desire to place people, place and performance at the heart of everything we do, and developing a strong, healthy and inclusive research culture will help us achieve that. We want to empower and encourage our researchers to deliver internationally leading, interdisciplinary research and innovation that will shape and benefit future societies.
We will continue to deliver research that has positive impacts on global societies and economies, building on existing areas of excellence and developing those areas that display potential for excellence, whilst making sure that we can reinforce the link between the high-quality research produced and its relevance to the University’s teaching at UG and PGT levels.
Business and Community Engagement Strategy
Also in 2020 we developed the University’s first business and community engagement strategy. This is a really exciting initiative for the University. We have great plans for our staff, students and alumni to work within and amongst City stakeholders and the public, to open up the University to our communities and to add real value to the health and economy of our city as it renews itself in the face of the pandemic. Our strategy places business and community engagement at the heart of our ambition for Bradford and for our University.
The strategy describes a vision in which Bradford will be a University City that shares knowledge in order to strengthen health, wealth and confidence across the many communities in which our students, staff and alumni participate. It places business and community engagement at the heart of our ambition for Bradford and for our University. It will enable us to strengthen our civic role and align knowledge, capability and resources with local and regional need, freeing up the talent and potential of those with whom we engage. We know we have a strong role to play in the City and envisage that this strategy will create a step change to reaching that goal. I will be working hard with many groups, internally and across the City and region, to implement our strategy to help us reach our goal of making Bradford a City known for its University and for the impact that the University has on the city.
In March 2021, we will be making our latest submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF). The REF is a regular peer review process that is used to assess the quality of research undertaken in UK universities. The outputs feed into various strategically important elements, such as league table positions and annual research block grant. Therefore, it is vitally important that our submission represents the very best of the University’s research.
Evidence is submitted for assessment to a Unit of Assessment (UoA) in one of three categories: outputs, impact and environment. Each UoA represents a distinct disciplinary group, such as Business and Management Studies, Archaeology or Engineering. We are submitting to eight UoA:
UoA A3: Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy
UoA A4: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
UoA B8: Chemistry
UoA B11: Computer Science and Informatics
UoA B12: Engineering
UoA C15: Archaeology
UoA C17: Business and Management Studies
UoA C19: Politics and International Studies
This is the first time we have made independent submissions to Chemistry and Psychology. We have also been able to make a submission to Computer Science; something we chose not to do in the last REF exercise. Each of these three examples are testament to the improving quality of our research in those three areas and the substantial investment made by the University to support those disciplines. In total, 230 of our academic staff will be represented in our submission, and we will be showcasing more than 550 research outputs. We have some excellent examples of impact arising from our research across the eight UoA and will be releasing details of these once the submission has been made as the REF is an excellent opportunity for us to take stock and reflect on some of the excellent research we undertake in all four of our faculties.
I hope this roundup has offered you some insight into what we have been doing and how we strive to develop in the future. If you want to know more, or want get involved then please do not hesitate to get in touch with the alumni team who are here to guide and support you.
Professor John Bridgeman
Deputy-Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation & Engagement)