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A year of achievements despite the uncertainty

A blog by MI Director, Dr Helen Turner, on the achievements of the MI partnership in 2020.

Prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 was promising to be a big year for Midlands Innovation with lots of announcements, milestones and projects taking shape. In January, the Energy Research Accelerator undertook its first international partnership mission to establish links in China, and in February we hosted the first visit made by the new Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Amanda Solloway MP.

As with everyone in the university sector and beyond, Covid-19 has challenged the ways in which the Midlands Innovation team work. However, it has also provided opportunities for the partnership to innovate. We have found a new role, providing a space for institutions to share experiences and best practice, as well as acting as a conduit for research councils and Government Departments who are needing to rapidly reach high numbers of universities more quickly and easily.

The pandemic has provided a platform for virtual collaboration that has enabled us to have more frequent meetings and interactions with more partners. We have expanded our networks and the partnership to move forwards more quickly with some projects. 

MICRA – the Midlands Innovation Commercialisation of Research Accelerator - has exceeded its target by 165% for the numbers of academics it has engaged with in 2020, several hundred technicians have already received training as part of the industry-leading TALENT programme, and we also welcomed the announcement of C-DICE, the Centre for postdoctoral development in Infrastructure, Cities and Energy.

MI Health has played an important role supporting the Midlands Engine to convene health and supply chain experts together to discuss the lessons which can be learnt from the national shortage of PPE, and how best to ensure the region’s future needs for PPE can be best met.  They have also been instrumental in supporting the Midlands Engine to launch Midlands Engine Health – a key driver to raise awareness of the region’s health expertise.

We have engaged with a number of the region’s MPs to brief them on the potential jobs and economic boost that ERA could provide to support levelling-up in the region, and we were also delighted to provide a platform for Professor Dame Leyser, the new CEO of UKRI, to be introduced to the MI Board of Vice-Chancellors, and to host a virtual roundtable discussion for the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation with the MI Board and regional business partners who discussed how universities and businesses  can work together to support the economic recovery of the country.

What the pandemic has shown me is that the MI partnership is more than just a research partnership of eight of the region’s most research-intensive universities. The spirit of collaboration in our partnership and collaborative ethos of those who work within our partner institutions runs deep, and 2021 is already shaping up to be a very promising year for Midlands Innovation.

On behalf of me and the core Midlands Innovation Team, may I wish you Season’s Greetings and a happy and healthy 2021 to you and your loved ones.

Dr Helen Turner, Midlands Innovation Director