In an article in ‘The Conversation’, philosopher John Armstrong suggests that Universities need to answer the question ‘why do we research’? He suggests two core motivations. Firstly, intellectual ambition and the pursuit of knowledge and, secondly, problem solving, that is, what other people experience as problems. The first relates to our intellectual ambition and a drive for research excellence and knowledge generation. The second relates to research outside the boundaries of academia, where we need to engage with markets, public opinion and deliver impact from the knowledge we have generated. Whilst this is not new, it is an increasingly acute duality as we lead up to REF 2021, the first KEF (which will measure our knowledge exchange outputs) and the consequences for research funding that will emerge as we exit the European Union. How do we balance the desire for research excellence with the pragmatic need to fund research activity? Armstrong suggests that 'Our epochal task is to make our best ideals powerful in the world we happen to have. We must not be Jacobites: devotees of a gracious but lost cause. To avoid that fate we have to think about love and money at the same time.'
As we reach the mid-point of the academic year, we do so with a strong base of research income that will help us to deliver both high quality research and impact. We have generated £10.3m in research income with an additional £8.4m currently in the pipeline, representing research funding success across the College. The award of £5m from our Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Enterprise EM3 has been finalised and will support the development of a Regional Cyber Security and Big Data Innovation Centre that will commence this year. Co-located with a new incubation facility, this will enhance our capacity to drive innovation, enterprise and impact. With much of the preparation for REF already well advanced, the release of the final guidance for REF 2021 on 31 January means that we are now able to proceed at pace to maximise our outcomes and, with around 90 potential impact case studies in progress, it is evident that we are achieving impact with the knowledge we have generated. There is much success to celebrate. As we move forward, we will need to continue to build on our research excellence in order to maximise eternal opportunity that will help to sustain our research into the future.
Professor Paul Layzell Principal