The VPRI Agenda 2018

We launched our 2017-2022 Corporate Strategy late in 2017. You may be somewhat cynical about corporate strategies in general, with some justification, as they are often very “motherhood and apple pie”. As these things go, Surrey’s is a very good one, and provides clear direction for us as an organisation. I recommend you read it here.

Of the seven objectives, two are particularly relevant.

Objective 3 on Research states: “We will enhance our research excellence and scale to be recognised internationally as a leading research university.”

Objective 4 on Impact and Innovationstates: “We will contribute economic, environmental, health and social benefits to society through research and innovation.”

The second driver of priorities in the Research & Innovation portfolio is the two reviews concluded in early-mid 2017: the Research Support Review and the Industrial Engagement and Commercialisation Review. They found much to commend, but also made strong recommendations. The Research Support Review noted that, (paraphrasing): “despite considerable good will and the best endeavours of staff, services are fragmented rather than integrated around delivering a common goal, academics often do not readily understand how to get things done, and support is more focused on rules, risk aversion and compliance than on facilitation, agility and added value.”

So, overall then, driving improvement in research excellence, scale, impact and relevance, requires an increase in the current level of investment over a sustained period – investing in research & innovation infrastructure, in recruiting academics, growing postgraduate research student numbers, and lowering the barriers for our academics to engage in the research & innovation endeavour. And it requires directing these investments from the institutional level to improve the alignment of our existing spend with our priorities and to seed changes where they will bear most fruit.

In 2018 (and beyond), we will focus on six priorities:
1. Increase the scale and strategic alignment of our investment in research & innovation infrastructure
At the moment, we don’t have enough external investment in our infrastructure, and our spend is not strategic enough. And we don’t have much that we can say is truly a drawcard to Surrey. I would like to change that.

2. Attract new world-class academic staff to the University
We have a Strategic Hires campaign underway – to complement and increase where we are truly world class in research. Help us identify the top people you want as colleagues at Surrey.

3. Double the full-time postgraduate research student population within five years
Over the last few years, our PhD cohort size has dropped – to 1.6 students/academic, and this is not enough – to support our own research, or to contribute the highly skilled workforce needed to meet the Government’s agenda of reaching 2.4% of GDP spent on research. We will address recruiting, funding, and progressing our students.

4. Create a strategic funding pool within the VPRI portfolio
Surrey cannot be excellent at everything – and its Research Strategy (more later on this) makes choices on what to support – and resourcing needs to follow that more than it does now. With such funding, a top priority will be to create an ECR fellowship scheme to attract new young talent, and then prep them for external fellowships.

5. Integrate support in the Research & Innovation portfolio and achieve greater researcher focus
We recognise research and innovation form a continuum in our knowledge generation ecosystem. Our reorganisation will lower barriers for researchers through a facilitation and “one-stop shop” approach.

6. Increase linkages between the University and the Surrey Research Park
Somewhat of a hidden jewel in our crown, we seek to amplify the two-way flows beyond the excellence of the Surrey Technology Centre, SETsquared and the Student Enterprise activities on campus to be more encompassing and synergistic.

I have so much more to say on these topics (!), and you can see I have not touched on our Research Strategy, which it won’t surprise you to learn I believe should be a Research & Innovation Strategy. Next time….thanks for reading.