GW4 Director's Update
February 2022

Welcome to the GW4 newsletter: your regular digest of GW4 news, funding and development opportunities.

Collaboration is at the heart of the GW4 Alliance and so I was thrilled that we were able to bring our 2022 GW4 Crucible cohort together at Lab 1 this month – our first in-person event of the year. We spent two days in a very wet and windy Cardiff, where our early career researchers explored working in interdisciplinary and collaborative ways on mental health and wellbeing research. The weather certainly didn’t dampen any spirits – I was highly impressed by our participants’ enthusiasm and dedication to the programme, and look forward to seeing their growth over the next six months. 

On the theme of collaboration, I was delighted to attend a House of Lords reception for the Western Gateway STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) Fusion bid at Severn Edge – a proposal to bring the UK’s first prototype fusion plant to the area. GW4 Board member Professor Phil Taylor, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Bristol, delivered one of the opening addresses in which he highlighted the expertise GW4 universities can bring to support this bid. The strength of the university sector was also raised by the Western Gateway Chair and Members of Parliament addressing the audience. I have given our full support to this proposal. It offers an unprecedented opportunity to engage with a unique breath of skills and research capacity within GW4, particularly with our focus on net zero and climate change, and also signifies a critical innovation opportunity for achieving clean growth in our region. 

GW4 has also submitted a response to the Nurse Review following an invitation for views. We hope the value of university alliances and our critical part in the UK research, development and innovation landscape are recognised as a result of our submission.  

Find out more about our current news, events and opportunities in this month’s newsletter.
Conversations spark collaborative ideas at GW4 Crucible Lab 1
Early career researchers selected for this year’s GW4 Crucible programme have taken part in their first in-person residential lab.

Participants from Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter universities came together to consider new interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to mental health and wellbeing research at a two-day event held in Cardiff, on 15-16 February.

Dr Chris Sandal-Wilson, a lecturer in the College of Humanities at the University of Exeter, said it was extremely valuable “having time carved out to reflect on the conversations we’ve been having as a big group, and in informal discussions over lunch… and to think about what that meant for me and my research, and what I wanted from the collaborations that could come out of this workshop”.

Meet the GW4 Crucible 2022 cohort here. Follow their progress on Twitter using the hashtag #GW4Crucible.
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GW4 response to the Levelling Up White Paper

The UK Government published its landmark Levelling Up White Paper earlier this month, outlining a blueprint to spread opportunity more equally across the UK. 

Among the 12 key missions set out in the White Paper are plans to increase public research and development (R&D) investment outside London and the South East by at least 40% by 2030.

Dr Jenkinson MBE welcomed more equitable R&D funding across the country. But she stressed intra-levelling up opportunities must also be taken into account, recognising the unique profile of each region at a granular level.

Read more.

GW4 creates collaboration fund to enhance technical staff careers

GW4 has launched a new funding scheme offering technical staff awards of up to £500 for collaborative professional development activities across the Alliance. 

The aim is to encourage peer-led training and development, and thematic community building around technical specialisms.

This funding opportunity is an open call, with applications set to be reviewed by the GW4 Technical Knowledge and Infrastructure Working Group at bi-monthly meetings.

Read more.

Nurse Review: University Alliances critical to UK RDI ambitions

GW4 has submitted a response to the Nurse Review, emphasising how university alliances are a critical and increasing part of the research, development and innovation landscape (RDI).

Nobel Laureate Professor Sir Paul Nurse, who is Chancellor of the University of Bristol, is leading an independent review for the UK Government into the existing RDI ecosystem, how it compares to international competitors, and how it can be improved and futureproofed. 

In a written submission, we highlighted the value of GW4’s collaborative endeavours and how these can help the Government achieve their RDI ambitions.

Read more.

What do Talent Commission Report findings mean for the future of technicians? – GW4 reaction

"This report provides a much-needed evidence base for initiatives like GW4WARD."

That is one of the comments GW4 Alliance Talent and Skills Manager Dr Sabrina Fairchild makes in response to the Midlands Innovation’s recent report: The TALENT Commission: Technical skills, roles and careers in UK higher education and research.

In an opinion piece, Dr Fairchild has reflected on GW4WARD’s suite of career development opportunities for technical staff across the Alliance, identifies opportunities to enhance our provisions, and highlights where the report intersects with wider strategic debates in UK Higher Education research culture, and the broader research and innovation system.

Read more.
Save the date - upcoming events
  • British Academy ECR Network, Demystifying the Stigma: Mental Health and Stress in the Workplace (South West) | 22 March 2022 | Register here
  • Cardiff University, 2022 Technical Staff Conference | 21 June 2022 | Register here
GW4 is a collaboration between the University of Bath, the University of Bristol, Cardiff University & the University of Exeter. 

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