MI Vision for 2024

MI Vision for 2024

Dr Helen Turner shares some of the many highlights she’s already looking forward to the Midlands Innovation partnership delivering in her first Director’s Diary blog of 2024.

The New Year is a great opportunity to take stock, to approach opportunities with a fresh outlook,  and to set resolutions and ambitions of what you want to deliver for the year ahead.

For Midlands Innovation 2023 was a pivotal year – our partnership agreed a new five strategy, established Midlands Mindforge, and we pushed forwards with our trail-blazing national pilot to attract oversees investment into the Midlands R&D ecosystem. I am very much looking forward to seeing over the course of this year the growth of Midlands Mindforge, the expansion and extension of the Universities as Drivers pilot and to delivering against the priorities and new opportunities our new strategy provides.

One of the new areas of focus for Midlands Innovation is MI policy, to develop a new policy arm which builds upon the policy recommendations that have been borne out of each of our research themes. In terms of policy, the Energy Research Accelerator has been examining at the pros and cons of public ownership in energy. The policy commission has undertaken interviews with numerous people in the energy industry, financial sector, policy thinktanks, academics and others. ERA will publish the full findings and recommendations of the policy commission shortly. MI Health, which is undertaking a Policy Commission focused on examining Midlands Health and Care Inequalities, will also publish its commission this year.

This month, ERA is hosting its conference, A Race Against Time – Energy Innovation for Net-Zero, on 25th January at Cranfield University. You can find more details and sign-up here.   It will also make its final stops on its roadshow of MI partner institutions at the University of Warwick and Cranfield University. Anyone from those universities wanting to meet the ERA Team and hear more about the ways they can collaborate with ERA, are encouraged to join them at their roadshow in Warwick on 18th January and Cranfield on 24th January 

As part of our technician TALENT programme, this month we’ll host a forum to enable technical team leader representatives from across Midlands Innovation partner institutions to meet, network and establish stronger peer networks.

MI TALENT will continue to deliver bespoke learning and development workshops and programmes for technical staff. From the popular online learning festivals, WinterFest and SpringFest, to a new cohort-based Project Management Programme for Technicians and a new UK-wide Cross Institutional Mentoring Scheme, run by technicians. TALENT is also expecting to publish new insights early in the new year. An Apprentice Levy Report will set out recommendations for higher education institutions to make best use of the levy to fund technical apprentices and develop their technical workforce.

The UK Institute for Technical Skills & Strategy, which was established in 2023, will be launching several new opportunities for technical professionals and institutions throughout this year. Funding will be made available to UK-wide universities and research institutes to hire a new technical apprentice in Physics. Supported by the Institute of Physics and EPSRC, more details will be announced this month. More than 200 technicians will begin the Herschel Programme for Women in Technical Leadership this month. The second Technology Specialists Network conference will take place in April. To keep up to date with new opportunities, events and news subscribe to the Institute’s mailing list here.

In February our Board of Vice-Chancellors will hold their first meeting of the year, the MI Board sets the direction for our partnership, and we are looking forward to shortly launching the next prospectus as part of the Universities as Drivers of Trade and Investment pilot. This prospectus is focused on the Creative and Digital research and development expertise in the region, which we’ve produced with the Arts and Humanities Research Council. This builds upon the four prospectuses we have launched so far on; agritech, health and life sciences, transport technology and zero carbon energy – areas where collectively universities in the Midlands have world-leading capabilities and expertise.

HyDEX and Keele University are looking forward to hosting the UK Hydrogen Awards in February, which will take place at Keele Hall. The Hydrogen Awards have been established as an annual measure of enterprise, innovation and excellence – in standards, implementation and thinking about the future and about bringing the use of hydrogen to all industries and sectors and to the public.

In April, one of our biggest networks is looking forward to hosting its annual conference, bringing together those that work in and support Flow Cytometry research across our eight institutions. Watch out for registrations opening. Also in April, we are looking forward to bringing together for the first time the MI Electron Microscopy Group.

Our latest research cohort within our Inclusive Transformation research theme will host its annual conference in May to share progress on their projects, and we’re also looking forwarding to supporting a BA ECR Midlands Network event that is being hosted by Keele University in March. The workshop will explore opportunities for early career researchers to engage with employers and other stakeholders as part of their research. As a pan-regional university group which champions the Midlands region, we are eager to see the East Midlands establishing a new combined authority and electing its first Mayor, who we look forward to working with and supporting to drive innovation and growth in our region.

In June, I am looking forward to participating in the second Midlands Engine Economic Summit, you can find out more details of the event as they emerge here.

This year, we’ll be undertaking further collaborative working with the National Protective Security Authority on Secure Research, building on the initiatives and webinars we hosted jointly with them in 2023.

Last, but by no means least, we are looking forward to launching a new Midlands Innovation website which better reflects the strategic priorities of our new strategy. Will be keen to hear from users what their views are of the new site when it launches, which we hope will be an exciting step-change in how people can collaborate with us.

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