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NTU Strategic Research Themes Conference brings together colleagues to identify solutions to grand societal challenges

Over 100 NTU research colleagues came together on Tuesday and Wednesday this week for NTU’s first in-person research-themed conference in over two years.

NTU Strategic Research Themes conference
NTU Strategic Research Themes Conference 2022

COVID-19 has made research collaborations challenging, so it was exciting for our research colleagues to finally be able to come together during these two days to discuss the current research landscape and to work collaboratively to identify solutions to contemporary societal and global challenges.

The conference started with an opening address and introduction to the Strategic Research Themes from Professor Di Bailey – Interim Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation. Professor Bailey spoke passionately about the current research landscape, and highlighted excellent opportunities for cross-disciplinary research collaborations.

Attendees were able to learn how the Strategic Research Themes have supported the success of NTU research projects by hearing first-hand from researchers who have received funding through the themes and collaborated across disciplines to come up with innovative solutions.

Presentations were given by academics working on a range of interesting research projects, including an eco-museum for Southwell, an app for African-Caribbean men to help diagnose prostate cancer, linguistic research used for forensic analysis and legal processes, NTU’s collaboration with Brackenhurst Kenya to establish an ecological restoration programme, as well as 3D-printed livers to help surgeons prepare for operations. Following these inspiring presentations, research colleagues were able to get to know the Strategic Research Theme leads, learn more about the themes, and connect with other researchers in an informal networking session.

NTU Strategic Research Themes conference 2
Opening address by Professor Di Bailey

NTU’s Global Heritage Research Theme Lead and recent Queen’s Anniversary Prize Winner, Gamal Abdelmonem felt really positive about the conference and said:

“I think it has been a fantastic event, and for the first time ever we are getting together at this scale across all research themes. It was the first time we could sit down and see examples of projects across the themes and from different disciplines at the same time. We have also seen different developments of projects and success stories which has inspired a lot of the early career researchers here today.

We’ve also had a chance to brainstorm with colleagues about the direction of research and where the next big projects are happening. This is the kind of unique event which we have been missing for the past two years. I think it has been very positive; lots of fantastic energy around it and I think we have some good ideas now about where we need to go next.“

John Hunt, Theme Lead for Medical Technologies and Advanced Materials, said:

"I think it's easy to forget the real value of an in-person meeting when we’ve all been living on Teams for the past two years during the pandemic. It’s so much easier to get into the nitty-gritty of research, and it’s so much more efficient and faster to meet in person and really talk to people about what research they’re doing - sharing research experiences, sharing ideas, and making connections. It’s so important for us to get together, talk about what we’re interested in and what we’d like to do. I truly believe that as a species we are better together, and you can definitely see that on days like today.”

Donna Champion, research Theme Lead for Sustainable Futures, added:

“Today has been really exhilarating – it's so wonderful to be in the same room and talk to people who I haven’t met and who have got great ideas and great experiences. It’s just an energy that you do not get online. So, I am really happy that we stuck to our guns and decided on a face-to-face conference.

I have been discussing with colleagues how we can bring together cultural heritage, sport, exercise, and economics to have a look at how NTU could extend research within their Place and Belonging agenda - we are the best-placed university across the East Midlands to do just that. We’ve already generated bids and funding for numerous different projects, so we’ve already got a lot of successful research which we can build on for the next phase.”

Following the project presentations, our colleagues were treated to lunch which was followed by the launch of the Strategic Research Themes Funding call, together with breakout discussions to consider ideas for funding applications. The first day finished with feedback from the breakout discussions and a Q&A on how these ideas can be supported by NTU research.

Following the first day of the conference, Professor Di Bailey and Vice-Chancellor Edward Peck hosted a Celebration Event for Theme Leads and Research Support colleagues to celebrate the success of recent recipients of research funding and the winners of the Images of Research Competition.

NTU Strategic Research Themes conference 4
Evening Celebration Event

Day two of the conference started with an opening address from Dr Rebekah Smith McGloin, Director of the Doctoral School and Research Operations. Dr McGloin’s opening address was then followed by societal breakout sessions to further the conversation about how NTU researchers can address key societal challenges together.

The second day of the conference finished with a summary of the discussions from the breakout sessions, a Q&A, and finally closing remarks and next steps from Professor Di Bailey.

Professor Di Bailey commented on the conference:

“Everyone at the conference has really embraced the opportunities to network, and to think about how the Research Themes can lead to external funding. I’m looking forward to receiving lots of really good quality proposals following the conference, and I’m excited to get our research colleagues to really embrace NTU’s ambitions for cross-theme working. Interdisciplinary working is key to research at NTU, and it is our best chance of getting the external investment we need to realise research proposals – and I think we’ve already got some great ideas.”

“Our research colleagues have been able to listen to live case studies of different types of projects, how we’ve funded those projects, and what difference those projects have made. What’s been really interesting is the number of those projects that are really speaking to the place-based, local agenda around research – and given that’s an area that we really want to focus on going forward, I think that’s really encouraging. We’ve got lots of good case studies that we can talk about and it’s exciting to finally be able to get our research community together to address key societal challenges.

Thank you to the colleagues who attended the conference - I can’t wait to see the innovative research projects they come up with following this conference.”

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Published on 3 March 2022
  • Subject area: Sciences including sport sciences
  • Category: Research; School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences; School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment; School of Art & Design; School of Arts and Humanities; Nottingham Business School; Nottingham Institute of Education; NTU Doctoral School; Nottingham Law School; School of Science and Technology; School of Social Sciences