Director’s Diary – Marching through March and More

Platforming our people

With the lighter mornings and evenings Midlands Innovation and our partners have certainly had a ‘spring in our step’ and we have very much been marching at a great pace through March, with several major announcements including the latest – the exciting announcement of Midlands Mindforge Limited – the creation of a new investment company to accelerate the commercialisation of university spinouts and early-stage IP rich businesses in the region. 

March has also provided us with opportunities to champion Midlands research and industrial Life Science expertise with Government, and to shine a spotlight on the crucial work of Professional Research Investment and Strategy Managers in Parliament.

Raising the Life Science expertise in the Midlands with the Chancellor

I was delighted to take part in a Treasury Connect Life Sciences discussion hosted by the Chancellor of Exchequer, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP.  The event brought together businesses, industry leaders, and other key stakeholders to discuss how to drive growth in life sciences. It was one of five Treasury Connect Conferences that the Chancellor is hosting around the exciting announcement of Midlands Mindforge Limited.

Life Sciences in the Midlands equates to £25bn GVA and we have 16,000 companies. A recent HEPI report on The Role of Universities in Driving Overseas Investment into UK Research and Development highlighted the University of Birmingham’s Birmingham Health Innovation Campus as an exemplar of the way in which universities can drive foreign direct investment into life sciences.   

Professor Adam Tickell recently blogged for HEPI on how the campus will align with the life science expertise and infrastructure in the region and will also establish Birmingham as a leading economic hub for life sciences. As part of the campus, the University will create the Precision Health Technologies Accelerator which will provide nearly 70,000 square feet of state-of-the-art incubation, innovation and collaboration space which will position the West Midlands as a viable option for laboratory and research space beyond the golden triangle. Read his blog here

Highlighting the importance of Professional Research Investment and Strategy Managers (PRISMs) in Parliament

It was a privilege to be asked by UK Research and Innovation to showcase the role of PRISMs, or as we call them ‘research enablers’, in underpinning and driving the excellent UK research and innovation, as part of a Parliamentary event celebrating UKRI’s first five-year strategy.

The event, which brought together parliamentarians, academics and industry stakeholders, along with UKRI leadership, showcased a small taster of the people and projects in research and innovation across the UK that embody the themes of UKRI’s strategy. It was brilliant to be one of just six projects showcased at the event, which included a speech by the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, George Freeman MP.  A highlight for me was that I was able to take two brilliant research enablers from the Midlands – Debra Fearnshaw from the University of Nottingham and Kathryn North from Loughborough University. They maximised the networking opportunity to showcase the amazing work that they do.

Midlands Innovation raised the vital role of professional staff across our partnership who manage large research grants, networks and CDTs with UKRI senior leaders during a roundtable discussion as part of a UKRI visit to the region in September 2022. The discussion highlighted the importance of research enablers in supporting higher education research and innovation. Read more here and download a report prepared for MI on Research enablers: their value, contribution and role contributing to a positive research environment here.

Earlier in March we were delighted to announce a new Institute of Technical Skills and Strategy – a key recommendation of the TALENT Commission, and the launch of a report by Frontier Economics analysing the Economic benefits of implementing the TALENT Commission, as well as the Government announcement of the funding for the Midlands universities drivers of trade and inward investment pilot, linked to the HEPI report I mentioned above. 

MI and MI Health were proud to support Wellcome with their Discovery Research Midlands event. It brought together 200 researchers and research support staff representing 26 universities, research institutes and other organisations who came to The East Midlands Conference Centre to hear about the breadth of research that Wellcome’s Discovery Research funds. Many thanks should be directed to MI team members Sarah Alton and Alex Archibald for their hard work in supporting Wellcome with this event.

It was fantastic to be able to address the conference and the main message that I took away was the importance of partnerships. Like Midlands Innovation, Wellcome very much underlined that they want to build research partnerships. It was great to hear the insights of Professor Peymane Adab and Dr Jospeh Galea from the University of Birmingham who discussed their roles as Wellcome Advisory Committee Members in reviewing funding proposals and their hints and tips for success.

Wellcome are very much seeking bold and creative applications and anyone who was unable to attend the Midlands conference can sign up for one of the other regional events they will host in April and May, or for a virtual session. You can find more details here

MI Health supported the organisation of the UK Life Science Investment Summit 2023 in London which brought innovation agencies and investors together from across the UK to facilitate knowledge exchange and connectivity, and highlighted the strengths of each region. MI Health also supported the 2nd annual conference of the Midlands Racial Equality in Medicine Network, hosted at the University of Leicester, where the Network’s Chair, Ramat Ayoola, spoke about their work on the MI Health Midlands Health and Care Inequalities Policy Commission, which is due to be published shortly.  

Also in March, I represented MI at a meeting of the Midlands Engine Partnership Board, where we discussed the development of a new business plan, I attended the launch of a new UK ‘Space City’ cluster in Leicester and was delighted to be invited to the official opening of a new veterinary school building at Keele University.

As a month, March certainly did pack a punch, and as I look back I am very proud of what our partnership has delivered. However, none of the above would have been possible without the tireless work of the MI, MI Health and TALENT Teams and the efforts of a great number of collaborators across our partner institutions, our region and beyond. I wish them and you a restful time over the Easter Bank Holidays.

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