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Onwards and upwards for MI in 2021

Dr Helen Turner, Director of Midlands Innovation blogs about 2021 has in store for the partnership:

Well if 2020 was a challenging year, then 2021 has most certainly started off in just the same way, but despite this, I am pleased to say we are not only already delivering for our partnership, but for the Midlands region too.

This month (January 2021) Midlands Innovation Health jointly launched its co-authored report - Mobilising Research Excellence in the Midlands to Tackle COVID-19 - on the staggering efforts of MI Health partners, hospitals and businesses in the Midlands to deliver £100m of COVID research in 2020 to support the national pandemic efforts (read the report here).

The launch, undertaken in partnership with the Midlands Engine, was well attended by an audience of regional MPs, local and national Government officials and industry. They heard how the Midlands is expertly placed to take a leading role in the next stages needed of COVID research – be that through delivery of the clinical trials needed for the next generation of vaccines for those groups which can’t take the current vaccines, or the study and treatment of long COVID patients through utilising the National Rehabilitation Centre being built in the region and the experts we have in this field. View a video highlighting some of the key research that has taken place in the region, and how the Midlands could be at the heart of the next stage of pandemic efforts here. You can also view the recordings of the launch event on this same link too.

The Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) Team, have also had a busy start to the new year delivering workshops for the Midlands Engine to help inform and determine the region’s Green Growth plan in response to the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Green Action Plan, and this month we have also seen the launch of C-DICE.   

Backed by ERA, C-DICE - the Centre for Postdoctoral Development in Infrastructure, Cities and Energy - will help build and sustain a pipeline of world-class talent. C-DICE is run by Loughborough University, together with the University of Birmingham and Cranfield University, and including all of Midlands Innovation partners. To keep up-to-date with the latest news from C-DICE follow them twitter @CentreDice.

As the UK’s largest green energy research partnership, ERA is formulating an ambitious plan of online engagement this year in the lead up to COP26. As well as the return of ERA Vision – a conference to provide a network for businesses, researchers and policy makers to come together to explore new ideas and innovations which can help the UK (and beyond) reach NET-ZERO targets. We will also be highlighting the wider research by MI Partners to help tackle climate change in the lead up to COP too.  

In the first six months of this year, MICRA – a collaboration of our eight partner’s Technology Transfer Offices - is delivering 20 training sessions for early career researchers and academic entrepreneurs within the network to help them to translate their research into commercial opportunities.

MICRA is also busy co- producing a report on innovation and investment opportunities in the Midlands, which will be published shortly. As well as looking at the innovation ecosystem of the region and the investment landscape, it will feature some of the success stories which have emerged from the Midlands Innovation Universities and identify key sectors for investment. The report will be launched with an online event in the spring.

This year, we are also looking forward to once again hosting HETS (the UK’s Higher Education Technician Summit), and we will shortly be announcing some exciting developments to HETS. 

We are delighted to announce that nominations are now open for Papin Prizes - the UK’s only awards entirely focused on recognising technical excellence in higher education and research. The prizes will be awarded at HETS, and this year there is an extra special COVID-19 Recognition award to recognise the extensive efforts of technical colleagues during the pandemic. You can read more and nominate technical colleagues here

As the partnership that is making the largest investment in the career advancement of technical colleagues, the MI TALENT Team are this year looking forward to publishing the UK’s first Policy Commission focused on the Higher Education and Research Sector’s Technical Community to provide new understanding on the UK Higher Education and Research Sector’s technical skills needs in the future.

The TALENT Policy Commission will also explore government policy implications and the impact of increasing focus on collaboration with industry, before compiling a range of recommendations.

This year we will also undertake equipment sharing roadshows across the partnership to raise awareness, encourage collaborative research and maximise resources, building on the momentum for the first of its kind equipment sharing initiative that we launched in the autumn. Technical colleagues across our eight partners are pioneering this initiative to demonstrate to the sector that it is technical colleagues that are best placed to lead effective equipment sharing to further R&D collaboration.

The above is a short snap-shot of some of the highlights that we are focused on delivering in 2021, but its not an exhaustive list, our other core areas of collaborative research in transport, space, as well as our emerging Inclusive Transform research agenda continue, as does further work on equipment sharing, so it’s very much ‘watch this space’ for announcements on these and other areas.