Midlands Innovation partners secure £31m of Research England funding

Midlands Innovation partners secure £31m of Research England funding

Three Midlands Innovation (MI) partners have been successful in securing funding in the latest round of Research England’s Expanding Excellence in England (E3) awards. A total of 18 Higher Education projects are set to receive funding totalling £156 million, with MI partners receiving a significant proportion of the total sum awarded.

Aston University, the University of Leicester and Cranfield University were among the successful institutions, securing £31 million of direct funding, with Cranfield also receiving an additional share of £13.5 million via another partnership.

The aim of the E3 awards is to support small, but excellent research units build the capacity and quality of their research and to support a research skills pipeline to benefit local economies, society, and cultures.

Professor Philip Baker, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Leicester and Chair of the Midlands Innovation Executive Management Group (EMG) said:

“I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone involved in these successful bids. Across our partnership we have showcased, yet again, the excellence of our research endeavours. This funding will provide a significant boost to the Midlands region and is further testimony of the quality of our partners.”

Aston University was awarded £10 million to establish the new Aston Institute for Membrane Excellence (AIME), a globally unique, cross-disciplinary institute to develop novel biomimetic membranes.

Membranes, both biological and synthetic, are hugely important in many sectors. For example, the world’s top ten selling human medicines all target proteins in biological membranes, while synthetic polymer membranes are used in the US$100bn/year water purification industry. The team behind AIME believes that the full potential of membranes will only be realised by an interdisciplinary group spanning biology, physics and chemistry that can investigate membranes holistically.

The vision is for AIME to become a ‘one-stop shop’ for interdisciplinary, translational membrane research through its facilities access and expertise, ideally located in the heart of the country.

Professor Aleks Subic, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Aston University, said:

“Our new Aston Institute for Membrane Excellence (AIME) will be a regional, national, and international research leader in membrane science, driving game-changing research and innovation that will produce a pipeline of high-quality research outcomes leading to socioeconomic impact, develop future global research leaders, create advanced tech spinout companies and high value-added jobs for Birmingham and the West Midlands region.”

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Cranfield University secured £7 million to fund a new research centre focused on harnessing the positive powers of fungi.

The new Magan Centre for Applied Mycology will examine the positive role fungi-derived technologies and applications could have in supporting the green economy and global net zero ambitions.

Fungi are one of the most diverse kingdoms in all living organisms and have an estimated global monetary value of 54.57 trillion US dollars. Long used for food and medicine, only a small proportion of classified fungi species has been studied in detail and developed for industrial use – leaving an estimated three million species yet to be discovered and evaluated. To date, research of fungi has largely focused on mitigating negative effects like disease, toxins and food loss.

With over 35 years of research expertise in fungi, particularly in food storage and safety, Cranfield will extend its work into other areas where fungi could have a profound impact. This will involve interdisciplinary research into applications such as renewable energy, biofuels, construction materials, packaging, robotic parts and fuel cells.

Professor Leon A. Terry, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Cranfield University welcomed the new investment: “The interdisciplinary nature of this new research centre along with Cranfield’s world-renowned and long-standing expertise in mycology makes this a really exciting prospect. We look forward to working with partners and industry to develop some of the most novel and innovative technologies in this space.”

Cranfield academics are also set to collaborate on a new £13.5 million Future Biodetection Technologies Research Hub, led by the University of Hertfordshire, in collaboration with Cranfield, Leeds and Manchester universities.

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The University of Leicester was awarded more than £14 million to expand its research into the prevention and management of chronic disease through physical activity.

The money will go to the University’s Leicester Lifestyle and Health Research Group (LLHRG) over the next five years to inform transformative work and will directly benefit people living in Leicestershire.

Based within the Leicester Diabetes Centre at the Leicester General Hospital, the LLHRG works with NHS staff to better understand how chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease can be prevented and managed by becoming more physically active and through lifestyle changes such as diet and sleep. 

Professor Tom Yates, the Director of LLHRG said: “The funding will make a transformative difference to the work of the group through investment in staff, facilities and equipment. It will allow us to expand our resources and continue our excellent engagement with local partners including University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, the city and county councils, sports clubs and other Higher Education institutes to name a few.” 

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Research England is responsible for funding and engaging with English higher education providers, to create and sustain the conditions for a healthy and dynamic research and knowledge exchange system in the higher education sector. Read more about it here.

You can find further details on the Expanding Excellence in England (E3) fund here as well as further details on all the latest investments here.

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