Dr Richard Masterman

August 2, 2017, by Rob Ounsworth

Research Priority Areas: a vital part of our research ecosystem

Dr Richard Masterman on the vital role of the University of Nottingham’s Research Priority Areas in promoting transdisciplinary research.

The University of Nottingham is investing an unprecedented £200m as we refocus and strengthen our vision and ambition for research.

Underpinning the delivery of this vision is our strength in continuing to develop transdisciplinary advances.

This is exemplified by our Research Priority Areas.

Our RPAs are a cornerstone of the University’s ambition to deliver even more research of exceptional quality.

By encouraging researchers from across diverse disciplines to work together to find solutions to challenges, RPAs enrich our research ecosystem and provide a focus for engaging our academic community with the powerful opportunities that arise from transdisciplinary research.

At a recent RPA Information Day, we heard exciting examples from RPA leads of how their teams of researchers are building networks in the University and with partners across the world:

Colleagues discussed how the RPAs act as an outward facing ‘shop window’ for research and how RPAs can be also seen as an incubator – they help to map areas of activity, identify capacity, and  connect people who work in related areas. RPAs help us make sense of, and exploit, the breadth and diversity of research across the University.

Commitment to transdisciplinary discovery

Colleagues are also keen to use RPAs as a powerful route to engage early career researchers, signposting opportunities to work in new and perhaps unexpected areas. We agreed that we should do more to share these opportunities – one suggestion was an RPA guide, illustrating our commitment to transdisciplinary discovery, mapping such relationships and offering colleagues (especially new arrivals) guidance on seeking out and connecting with research networks.

Our focus on transdisciplinary research and key challenges aligns with the Government’s flagship Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). This will channel funding to key targets for innovation and economic success in the UK, including:

  • batteries for the electrification of vehicles
  • robotics for hazardous environments such off-shore energy
    technologies for delivery of new drugs and treatments
  • AI and control systems for driverless cars
  • advanced materials for transport

A rich and fertile research ecosystem

We are well-placed to target these ISCF and other funding opportunities through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Our research ecosystem, with its Beacons and Research Priority Areas, aligns with the vision outlined by Sir Mark Walport, head of UK Research and Innovation. Our Research Vision shares Sir Mark’s commitment to addressing  the changing worlds of science, business and society, driving success through pushing the frontiers of human knowledge, and delivering impact and creating societal benefit.

Our new Beacons of Excellence champion our transdisciplinary responses to global challenges, and with our Research Priority Areas, form a fertile ecosystem to nurture and deliver discovery and solutions.

At the RPA Information Day, researchers were keen to find out how they can work productively together, and strengthen the networks that will fuel our future success. We are also asking RPAs and Global Research Themes leads to identify their needs for coordinated support.

Our new Research Vision is a fluid blueprint and we will invite researchers to help continually find innovative, exciting ways of working together to achieve our goals.

Dr Richard Masterman is Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research Strategy and Performance

Find out more about the University’s Global Research Themes and how to contribute to our RPAs

Visit the Research Vision Workspace to discover more about our research investment and what it means for you.


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