Professor Neil Crout

March 22, 2023, by Rob Ounsworth

We’ve come a long way: Professor Neil Crout’s farewell update   

This is my last blog as my cameo appearance as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange comes to an end. Even more weirdly (for me at least) it’s actually the end of my time at the university with retirement just a few days away.  

I’ve jotted down some reflections on my 30-plus years at the University of Nottingham but one thing I can say is that I’ve had the privilege of working somewhere with a purpose of delivering education and discovering stuff, which is full of clever, conscientious and wonderful people. 

Here, as usual, I share news of successes, opportunities and progress towards helping our researchers achieve the best they can be. There is, of course, always room for improvement but I can definitely say systems for staff development and support have changed utterly and for the better during my time at Nottingham.  

Supporting research staff development 

I’m delighted that the Research Strategy Delivery Plan has further expanded resources for research staff development. To support my final update, I asked Niall O’Loughlin, our new Director of RKE Excellence and Strategy, to summarise that activity in his excellent piece 

Highlights include:  

Professor Vicky Chapman meanwhile kindly updates on really good progress on integrating our various research support systems, including the provision of seed-corn funding to develop new research ideas and to consolidate the creation of new collaborations: 


One of our longest standing schemes, UNICAS (University of Nottingham Interdisciplinary Centre for Analytical Science), has been accessed by researchers across all areas of the university. To date more than £2m of external funding has been directly credited to initial UNICAS support, and a further £14m of funding has been indirectly credited to this support.  

Over the next six months, we will be reviewing the reach of UNICAS funding to ensure that as the research needs of our researchers change that we continue to provide seed-corn investment that best matches our research.  

Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Fund 

The Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration fund started in late 2021, and provided support for 18 new research networks and collaborative projects. 

Further investment has funded an additional seven new projects to date in 2023. We hope that this investment in interdisciplinary research has helped prepare our researchers for the increasing number of cross-council interdisciplinary funding calls that are being announced in 2023. 

Large and complex bid support: transforming your ideas into research success 

As well as seed-corn investment, our research growth strategy will focus on the development of complex research proposals aligned with strategic opportunities. From spring 2023 we will be investing in a package of support that aims to provide research project management expertise for a small number of targeted complex bids for the next three years. This investment will allow researchers time to focus on the research questions, while experienced project managers provide dedicated bid development support and coordinate access to cross-faculty and wider R&I support.   

This investment will not be targeted to imminent submissions, but will be used to mature ideas for submission in the next financial year. Faculty AVPC RKE and School Directors of Research will be preparing a long list of candidate research areas for support in the forthcoming months, so please do discuss with your networks and teams both within and between faculties.   

Adelaide-Nottingham Alliance launches research fund  

The Adelaide-Nottingham Alliance, set up to deepen engagement between the two universities, is inviting researchers to apply for funding to develop further collaborations. 

The alliance sees our long-standing friendship develop into a strategic global partnership. It aims to increase the impact of our research and further opportunities for international collaboration, while developing the next generation of students with a truly global mindset.  

Find out more and apply 

University hosts national technical skills institute 

It is good to see that the Research England-funded UK Institute of Technical Skills and Strategy is being hosted by the University of Nottingham, in partnership with a network of organisations and institutions across UK higher education and research. 

The institute aims to ensure that the UK has the technical capability and capacity to be a global superpower in science, engineering and the creative industries. 

Dr Kelly Vere, our Director of Technical Strategy, spearheaded the initiative. Kelly is giving a presentation about the institute at the Technical Managers in Universities conference in Liverpool on 30-31 March. Register here. 

You can find out more about the essential work of the university’s technical staff in the latest edition of their newsletter Technically Speaking! 

Nurse review of research ecosystem is published as UK reveals plan to become a global science ‘superpower’ 

It is also good to see the Science and Technology Framework recognises research as an essential driver of productivity and sustainable growth, while Sir Paul Nurse’s review examines how an effective UK research ecosystem is essential to delivering the Government’s ambition to be a science superpower. 

The University of Nottingham’s own research strategy supports the government’s commitment to accelerating the delivery of transformative technologies to market, while our vision for an agile and responsive research culture and robust infrastructure underlines our ability to tackle grand challenges. 

Let’s hope uncertainty ends soon over access to Horizon Europe or a Plan B option. Meanwhile, our relaunched International Research Collaboration Fund, partnership with Germany’s University of Tübingen and our Adelaide-Nottingham Alliance underline the university’s determination to support cross-border partnerships. 

World Engineering Day  

UNESCO’s World Engineering Day took place earlier this month, and our engineers and faculty colleagues did an excellent job of promoting our expertise in helping to secure a sustainable future. 

Public engagement: still time to share your thoughts 

The university has applied for a public engagement watermark and a survey in support of our application for this prestigious award closes on Friday 31 March 2023. 

We are asking everyone to complete the survey to share how well you think we support public engagement. This award will demonstrate to staff, students, partners, communities and funders the university’s commitment to public engagement. The watermark also provides compelling evidence to underpin funding applications, KEF and REF submissions, and the myriad of quality assurance processes we have to undertake. 

All good reasons, I think, to take the survey. 

Tri-Campus Awards 

Finally, the Researcher Academy’s annual Tri-Campus Awards are open. We invite all members of the university community to nominate a postgraduate researcher, postdoctoral researcher, research team, research supervisor, research technician or administrative colleague who deserves to be celebrated. 

Find out more and submit your nomination 

With thanks and best wishes 

Neil Crout signature

Professor Neil Crout
Interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange

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