Speech — Surrey Celebration of Research and Innovation Achievements: Remarks, 19 November 2019

Good evening everyone!

I am delighted to be here, amongst so many talented people in the research and innovation community at Surrey.  Our excellent researchers and dedicated professional support staff are the reasons why I am really optimistic about our future research. This evening is about celebrating your research excellence and impact on society. 

I am very pleased to see some early career researchers and many great PhD mentors present tonight.  

Speaking of early career researchers, this reminds me of a similar event in Australia, long before I became DVCR and Provost.  Receiving recognition of my work from the university was instrumental to some of my early exploratory research, and it paved the way for further funding and collaborations. It is so important that we celebrate each other, and acknowledge the support and encouragement that turn hard work into success.

I have also learned, from supervising some 45 PhDs, the satisfaction of seeing young PhDs graduating to make a difference in the world. Devoted supervisors ask for nothing more than the success of their students. This requires outstanding and generous supervisors, to enable young researchers to achieve their best. At Surrey, we are fortunate to have many supervisors who match, and exceed, this expectation.

We make an impact to the nation and indeed to the world through research collaborations, innovation and partnerships with industry.  And, of course, numbers and statistics can never tell the full story of inspiring projects conducted by our passionate researchers. In recent months alone, our teams are pushing knowledge frontiers about the Ebola virus and how it relates to climate change, about how patent law will cope with AI inventions, and about a ‘cannibal’ galaxy named Andromeda that is eyeing-up the Milky Way….so, that probably means another Brexit extension, at the very least….

Running a research-intensive university in the current economic and political environment is the ultimate balancing act. We are fortunate to have an excellent foundation to build on. I am also heartened to note the recent government policy directions manifest in the Queen’s Speech, and also statements from major political parties on the commitments toward 2.4% of our GDP or higher investment in science and innovation.

There really has never been a better time to be in academia in the UK, ironic as it may sound, as this country firmly believes in education and research-underpinned prosperity. New initiatives emerging from the just-published Smith Review on our international collaborations will provide fresh impetus for building our global connections and reputation.

As we help to shape the future of society, our strong research and innovation ecosystem in the UK will help us to navigate a world that is uncertain and unpredictable. And with so much talent represented by the people in this room, the University of Surrey is well placed to contribute to that exciting future. 

Finally, may I say how delighted I am to be part of this occasion to honour your efforts and achievements tonight.  I thank you for your dedication and hard work, and look forward to continuing to work with you to grow our research and lift our reputation.   Thank you.