March 21, 2023, by Rob Ounsworth

Building on an excellent foundation

Guest blog by Niall O’Loughlin, Director of Director of RKE Excellence and Strategy.

I joined Nottingham at the end of November 2022 in my new role as Director of Research & Knowledge Exchange Excellence and Strategy. I would first of all like to thank all of you who I have meet and had a chance to work with. I have found Nottingham to be an incredibly collegial and positive place, and I have been struck by the pride people take in the university, and the passion they have to ensure the university succeeds and that our research makes a difference.

The journey so far

My new role in Research and Innovation involves overseeing a whole new section which includes RKE Strategy, Communications, Change Management & Support and the Researcher Academy. Although the teams are quite disparate in their focus, at heart their remits are all aligned to supporting staff to delivery high quality research and KE activities and to achieve their ambitions. A couple of highlights since I started:

Launch of resources to provide better management information for planning and strategy development

Support for international partnerships through the relaunched International Research Collaboration Fund

Launch of a new series of specialised researcher training programmes

Dispersed £5m of late allocated QR research funds, providing additional capital and development across the faculties.

Finishing the initial phase of the Connected Cultures (Research Culture) action plan.

Development and implementation of a staff  wellbeing hub for the directorate. 

Next steps

Whilst many of these initial work-programmes have been internally facing the next six months will be an opportunity for us to look outwards again with new focus and purpose.

The Windsor Framework will, if passed, remove one of the biggest blockages for association of the UK to the Horizon Europe funding programme. That programme has historically invested about £10m+ a year of research funding into the University of Nottingham and our region on a diverse set of projects. These have included ‘Space based monitoring of Pollution’, ‘Clean Aviation’ and ‘improving vaccine take-up’. The university is taking nothing for granted and will continue building bi-lateral partnerships as it has done with Tubingen and Adelaide universities. It is in the process of developing an International Strategy that will add further direction and resources to its efforts.

The announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in January held forth the promise of more funding for regional ‘investment zones’. The university has a good track record in drawing in external funding to support research-led economic growth, and this is an opportunity to ensure we are ready for the next phase with a clear, joined-up regional offer on ‘zero carbon’.

Realising our research strategy. With the disruption of Covid finally receding into the distance, we are taking a look at the initiatives we have in place to support the ambition, impact and volume of our research. The initial focus will be around ensuring that the current improvement projects are delivering what they need to, but we are also keen to take the opportunity to support new initiatives. If you have any thoughts or ideas on what we should be looking at then please do get in touch.

Lots of great work has already taken place and the university is on a strong foundation to achieve its goals. If you’re interested in finding out more about what we’re doing and future plans the please do get in touch.

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