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MI aspirations - We will push onwards and upwards in 2022

Blog by Professor Simon Green, the new Chair of the Midlands Innovation Executive Management Group and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Aston University.

I am delighted to become the new Chair of the MI Executive Management Group at such an exciting time for the partnership. This year has already started on a high with just a few of the highlights including the Energy Research Accelerator securing Research England funding for Hydex – a programme with industry to put the Midlands at the forefront of hydrogen innovation. Also, our sector-leading TALENT programme launched the Hershel Programme – the UK’s first leadership programme designed for people in technical roles who identify as women.

Almost 200 technicians from institutions up and down the country are taking part in the six-month pilot which is supporting the UK’s first R&D People and Culture Strategy.

The Hershel Programme is one of two sector-wide initiatives launched by TALENT already this year. The second is this week’s announcement of the findings of the UK’s first technician focused commission. The TALENT Commission, led by Professor Sir John Holman, is the result of in-depth research and data analysis to advance the careers, recognition, status and visibility of technicians. You can read the report here.

If the UK is to increase drastically its R&D investment and become a ‘science superpower,’ then it needs to build a diverse, skilled and sustainable technical workforce; the TALENT Commission research findings outline recommendations to help support this vision.

Collaboration within our partnership, within the wider Midlands region and beyond, is at the heart of Midlands Innovation. Over the next 12 months we look forward to continuing to work with our regional partners to champion the Midlands. We welcome the publication of the levelling up white paper and look forward to digesting its contents. We are keen to work with regional leaders to maximise opportunities to level up the Midlands for the benefit of our people and our place.

The Midlands Innovation Team are currently, under Sue Clayton’s leadership, gathering insight and feedback that we will use to help shape the development of a new strategy for MI, which we will launch later in the year. The new strategy will inform our strategic research focus areas over the next five years, including the 10th anniversary of our partnership in 2025. The Executive Management Group, which I have the honour of chairing for the next two years, will oversee the development and implementation of the new research strategy and delivery of our significant programmes on behalf of the partnership.

MI Health will continue to play a significant role in strengthening in-region collaboration between the NHS, industry and key regional health organisations. The findings of its Health Inequalities Policy Commission, which will be reported this year, will increase understanding of issues surrounding health inequalities in the Midlands and the ability of the region to respond to them. On behalf of the 15 national and regional Commissioners leading this important work,  MI Health has issued a Call for Evidence, and we would encourage colleagues in this field across our partnership to review the Call and help bring forward information.

 In the next 12 months we will continue to build upon our Inclusive Transformation research theme. We are delighted that all eight academic leads given seed-corn funding for projects are progressing their ideas so positively.  Working alongside colleagues from across the MI partnership, we are seeing new collaborations in areas such as green skills and the economy, technology services of smart homecare systems, through to inclusive forms of water governance. 

C-DICE, the Centre for Postdoctoral Development in Infrastructure Cities and Energy (which has recently entered its second year of operation) is a world-class postdoctoral development programme which leverages the capability of 18 leading research-intensive UK universities, including all MI and ERA partners. You can read more about C-DICE’s achievements so far here.

In the spring, we eagerly await the launch of the first phase of the University of Leicester’s Space Park. With the recent publication of the National Space Strategy, and the publication by WMRedi of the West Midlands Space Cluster Development Report, we expect this year to be ‘lift off’ for the research and innovation opportunities for the MI space group and the wider the region. We are looking to bring together a strong, collaborative MI space partnership to build on the strengths outlined in our technical Summary of  Expertise report.  

I have already touched upon the opportunity we are grasping to create a new strategic focus for the partnership, so it seems somewhat fitting to finish this blog by focusing on something which relates to the very origins of the partnership - the sharing of research equipment.

This year we have a renewed focus on equipment sharing and its evolution across our partnership. In the spring we will host a formal launch of the new HPC supercomputer that is available for researchers across our partnership. In April, the MI Flow Cytometry Group will be holding their annual conference and we will soon be able to share some exciting news on new research equipment for the partnership. In addition, we look forward to continuing to work alongside other regional university partnerships across the country to further strengthen equipment sharing across the UK.

Published 2 February 2022