February 23, 2022, by Rob Ounsworth
Lifting of Covid restrictions and anticipating new challenges
Research update by Professor Dame Jessica Corner
The government has announced that the national legal restrictions put in place to limit the transmission of Covid-19 will be lifted over the coming weeks. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long has this week communicated what this means for our university.
Our research has been back at full capacity for some time and researchers and colleagues who support research are encouraged to continue to conduct their work on campus, while following safety measures. We continue to strongly encourage our staff and student community to follow safety guidelines that will limit the spread of Covid-19. These include:
- self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19
- reporting positive test results to the University
- wearing face coverings in indoor spaces
- testing weekly, and staying up to date on vaccinations
- ventilating and monitoring air quality in buildings
Our remarkable response to Covid
We can all take pride in our university’s response to Covid. University of Nottingham research has examined its impact on every aspect of our lives from gender inequalities to the long-term effects of Covid and prevention in immunocompromised people.
Teams led by Dr David Turner played a truly significant part in the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine, while Professor Matt Loose and his colleagues helped UK health leaders keep track of Covid variants. The NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre’s Professor Ian Hall and Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid Chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, helped shape government response to the virus and deliver the most effective treatments.
Please take a look at the web pages dedicated to our response to the virus. This involved hundreds of colleagues, working in transdisciplinary teams to tackle an unprecedented crisis.
This is just a snapshot of these many remarkable people and their stories:
Professor Paul Crawford – cabin fever and wellbeing
Professor Carol Coupland – risks of developing neurological complications
Professor Jonathan Ball – efficacy of booster jabs
Professor Philip Bath – testing Covid-19 drugs in care homes
Professor John Gathergood – levelling up funding for recovery
Professor Kin-Chow Chang – developing antivirals for treatment of Covid
Professor Paul Greenhaff – resilience for older people during lockdown
Professor Kavita Vedhara – the toll on mental health
Professor Ana Valdes – immune system responses
Professor Tracey Warren – impact on gender equality
Dr Fiona Pearce – infection in immunocompromised people
Emeritus Professor Herb Sewell – natural immune response
Professor Chris Denning – asymptomatic testing service
Professor Holly Blake – supporting students in university settings
Professor Lucy Fairclough – National Core Studies Programme: immune response to SARS-COV-2 infection
Kirsty Bolton – mathematical modelling of transmission
Philip Quinlan -£4m data project to accelerate Covid-19 research
Anticipating global challenges
As we enter this phase of ‘Living with Covid-19’ our research will continue to help the UK recover and anticipate such global challenges.
The pandemic has also highlighted the global threat of viruses. Our long-standing expertise in virology and commitment to addressing such challenges is underlined by our investment in the Cat3 Laboratories, part of the Wolfson Centre for Global Virus Research at Sutton Bonington Campus.
A team led by Professor Janet Daly, Deputy Director of the Wolfson Centre for Global Virus Research, and Dr James Dixon of the School of Pharmacy and the Biodiscovery Institute have been awarded £462,462 for the development of a vaccine for the Zika virus from £10m of UK Aid funding for research into vaccines to protect the world from deadly diseases.
Professor Daly and her School of Veterinary Medicine colleagues Professor Kevin Gough and Professor Peter Mertens are also partners in a Horizon 2020-funded €5,850,000 project developing diagnosis and vaccines for Africa horse sickness and other diseases that have a devastating impact on societies in the developing world.
Renewing our research strategy
Our renewed Research Strategy for 2022-27 will further strengthen our ability to respond to these complex issues.
Conversations with you at the latest series of town hall meetings are informing our approach and we will further involve you in the delivery of our research strategy. Following approval of the strategic delivery plan for research, we are now presenting business cases for university investment in key areas to support our vision for research for the next five years:
- Research culture
- Supporting the research pipeline
- Strategic recruitment to build teams
- Facilities, infrastructure and open access
Progress is already under way in supporting new and emerging interdisciplinary research collaborations, with exciting ideas submitted to a fund to support this and UNICAS, the University of Nottingham Interdisciplinary Centre for Analytical Science, also receiving increased funding.
Building a vibrant and inclusive research culture at the heart of our vision. The Research Culture Improvement Project is under way with an external consultancy firm appointed to support. Running until the end of the calendar year, this project will help us to better understand our research culture now and the work that we need to do together to improve our culture, empower colleagues to effect local change, and to learn from best practice.
Zero Carbon Research and Innovation Cluster
We are engaging with colleagues across the university on the business case for a Zero Carbon Research and Innovation Cluster. The University of Nottingham is among the top five institutions globally for translation of its zero carbon-oriented research into high-impact commercial solutions, and is sought out by government and industry for partnering and advice across our strengths in electrification for transport, technologies for net zero aviation, developing green fuels and low energy solutions for the built environment. This work is being led by Professor Sam Kingman, Faculty of Engineering Pro-Vice-Chancellor, and is a truly exciting opportunity to increase our global standing in this strategically important area.
Awards for Future Food researchers
Professor Murray Lark of the Future Food Beacon has been awarded a European Joint Program for Soil grant, led by Rothamsted Research, to look at greenhouse gas emissions in Africa. The award is an extension to the £5m Global Challenges Research Fund CEPHaS project exploring how conservation agricultural practices can improve the resilience and sustainability of crop production.
Professor Ramiro Alberio, who leads the Future Food Cultivated Meat Transdisciplinary Research Cluster, has signed a £500,000 licensing agreement for its cultivated meat stem cells with Meatable. Professor Alberio’s research will help the development of cultured meat products, which is expected to grow to a $600bn global market by 2040, representing a substantial opportunity for pioneers in this field.
Other notable awards include:
Knowledge transfer partnership with Unilever
Professor Dario Landa-Silva and Dr Isaac Triguero Velazquez (Computer Science) have been awarded £170,000 in knowledge transfer partnership funding with their partner Unilever to unlock business value from big data. The project will analyse and build predictive models from data from sensors in ice cream cabinets at point of sale in locations around the world, allowing the team to leverage the latest machine learning methods to predict cabinet health and stock demand.
Turing development award
Researchers have received the University of Nottingham’s first ever Turing Network Development Award to focus on building trust in artificial intelligence and making it more accessible.
Professor of Embodied Intelligence Praminda Caleb-Solly, will lead the project at Nottingham, which is one of 24 universities to receive this new award and our track record of translation in data science and AI and this work will be significantly enhanced through involvement with the Turing Institute’s thriving network.
Landmark study in childhood cancer diagnosis
An unprecedented NIHR research-funded study of childhood cancer diagnosis in the UK by NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow Dr Shaarna Shanmugavadivel and our partners Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group has been published by BMJ Open. This recognition could inspire further international studies, saving many more young lives
Award for spinout Surepulse Medical
Congratulations to Professor Barrie Hayes-Gill and the team at university spinout company Surepulse Medical, which was recognised at the Medilink Midlands Business Awards 2022 for its pioneering partnerships between academia and business. Surepulse’s groundbreaking wireless monitoring system for newborns is helping transform neonatal care around the world.
Women in Tech Award winner
Dr Liliana de Lillo, a Principal Research Fellow in the Power Electronics and Machines group won the Women in Tech Award at the Nottinghamshire Live Women in Business Awards. Dr Lillo is the company director of TTPi which was formed to further develop, apply and commercialise IP and knowhow relating to power electronics solutions.
Stick to Science: university backs call to remove barriers to research collaboration in Europe
Members of the university’s research community are encouraged to support Stick to Science, a campaign urging EU leaders and the UK government to agree to the UK’s association with Horizon Europe.
The UK’s participation in Horizon Europe has stalled due to post-Brexit negotiations, delaying access to the €95.5 billion programme.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West and the University of Nottingham are joining the campaign’s call to put science ahead of politics and remove barriers to innovation across Europe.
Nottingham researchers are invited to sign an online petition calling for the UK’s urgent association to Horizon Europe. We fully support the Stick to Science campaign and whatever the outcome of negotiations between the UK and EU, we remain committed to developing innovation networks with our partners in Europe.
Engaging with Policy in the Global South
The Institute for Policy and Engagement invites you to attend its one-day conference, Engaging with Policy in the Global South, on Tuesday 26 April 2022. You will hear directly from policy makers and practitioners from around the globe, as well as from leading policy-engaged Nottingham academics, on how to approach policy impact work that takes account of historical and local context and develops positive, equitable relationships with policy actors in the Global South.
Women in Knowledge Exchange
Women in Knowledge Exchange is an online event taking place on 28 February 2022 (10:30am – 12 noon), which aims to encourage more women to take up KE activities that can enhance their career, whilst addressing the barriers women often face. Professor Zoe Wilson, Pro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Science, is hosting the event, which will include five-minute talks on:
- Business engagement
- Creating a spin out company
- Licensing their research
- Undertaking a Knowledge Transfer Partnership
- Influencing policy
- Engaging the public
Are you funded by the UKRI? New Open Access policy from April 2022
Researchers who are funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), including its seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK, should be aware that from April 2022 its new open access policy will apply to research articles (articles, reviews, conference papers) from April 2022. This will apply to long-form publications (academic monographs, book chapters, edited collections) from January 2024.
Technicians’ champion leads key UK report
Kelly Vere MBE, Director of Technical Skills and Strategy, has led a national report that champions the role of technicians in delivering the skills the UK needs to drive economic growth.
Kelly leads Midlands Innovation’s TALENT programme, a £5m collaboration between the University of Nottingham and seven other Midlands universities, and its report reveals the crucial role of technical skills in academia, research and innovation.
Kelly has offered leadership nationally for this important agenda and is helping shape policy and programmes that recognise the value of our remarkable technicians in securing a competitive, skills-rich economy.
With thanks and best wishes
Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange
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