< Back to News

Midlands Innovation plays key role in UKRI leaders visit

Midlands Innovation were delighted to welcome senior leaders from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to the region recently (July 2022) as part of their visit to discuss UKRI’s new five-year strategy.

The visit focused on the theme of world class innovation and the opportunities, people and conditions that make it thrive. As part of the visit, UKRI leaders wanted to discuss with the region’s research community (across all levels) their ideas and experiences for what’s working well currently and where things can change for the better in the future to create a dynamic, diverse and inclusive system of research and innovation for the UK.

Midlands Innovation were invited to arrange several sessions, and many colleagues from across the partnership participated in the two-day visit, including as part of the plenary session arranged by UKRI on Transforming Tomorrow Together: Delivering on the transformative opportunities from research and innovation.

During the session, Professor Pete Licence of the University of Nottingham spoke about Delivering Cleaner Greener Chemicals: EPSRC’s Prosperity Partnership with Lubrizol, and the Universities of Nottingham and Warwick, while Professor Monder Ram OBE, Director of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME), at Aston University spoke about Entrepreneurial Responses to the Pandemic: Supporting Microbusinesses and Promoting Inclusion.

MI Director, Dr Helen Turner, provided closing remarks for the session which was attended by some 170 people involved in innovation across the Midlands.

MI prides itself in championing the role of technicians in higher education and research and as part of the visit were delighted to arrange a specific session where MI technical representatives met with Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, CEO of UKRI, and Linda Holliday, Deputy Director for Global Mobility and Employee Diversity.

Technical colleagues were able to highlight the role of technicians in research and innovation and to discuss their experiences of the training they have received through the Research England backed TALENT programme, as well their thoughts on the recommendations of the TALENT Commission. You can read more about the insights technical colleagues shared with UKRI leaders here.

Midlands Innovation also worked with UKRI to host a roundtable discussion with Emma Lindsell, UKRI’s joint Executive Director for Strategy, Performance and Engagement and Linda Holliday on the vital role of professional staff across the MI partnership who manage large research grants, networks and CDTs.  They highlighted the importance of these roles and how they support research and innovation. Read more about the session, here.

As part of the visit, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser also met with Vice-Chancellors from universities across the region as well as with West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, to discuss research and innovation.    

On the second day of the visit, Midlands Innovation chaired a roundtable discussion focused on the role universities can and do play in securing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into a region’s Research & Development organisations and industry and how this could be strengthened to grow FDI into the Midlands. 

The discussion centred around the Universities as Drivers of Trade and Investment project, which Midlands Innovation is playing a key role in. The discussion involved colleagues from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, InnovateUKResearch England and UKRI, HEPI and other national bodies, as well as representatives from Midlands universities. You can read a blog about some of the key issues explored during the roundtable by HEPI Director of Policy, Dr Alexis Brown here.  

There was also a discussion involving Dan Shah, UKRI Director of Investment Strategy & System Insight, along with academics, policy makers and civic representatives highlighting the role of research in Local / Civic Impact and decision-making.

Chaired by Professor Simon Collinson, Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for Regional Engagement at the University of Birmingham, the discussion highlighted that universities across our region make a vital contribution to local communities through the research they undertake.

Also as part of the visit, Director of the Energy Research Accelerator, Professor Martin Freer, and other energy experts from across the MI partnership were involved in discussions around the region’s role in energy and Net Zero innovation with Dame Ottoline.  

Director of Midlands Innovation, Dr Helen Turner, said: “We were delighted to play a key role in supporting UKRI senior leaders’ visit. Across the many sessions the significant contribution Midlands Innovation partners make to innovation taking place in the Midlands was clear.

“For research and innovation to thrive in the UK, it will require a range of different skills and expertise and we were delighted that the visit involved and showcased some of the fantastic work of colleagues across the partnership who have a range of different roles. It was great to hear from Dame Ottoline and her team, that they recognise that for research to flourish we need a diverse, inclusive research community.”  

 Published 4 August 2022