Professor Iain Gillespie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, said: “We looked at a number of things that worked well with Richard III – research was very focussed, with rapid decision making and a lot of internal and external interest: all of these things are fantastic.
“But what we need to be able to do is provide an environment where that is the norm, rather than an exception. With Richard III we got it right and it worked brilliantly. But what we need to ensure is that we have the conditions that encourage that type of multidisciplinary, challenge-driven research to flourish.”
The new institutes are an integral part of the Discovery-led Research strand of the University’s Strategic Plan, unveiled in September last year by President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle.
The four interdisciplinary institutes will build on Leicester’s established strengths in:
- Precision Medicine
- Structural and Chemical Biology
- Space and Earth Observation Science
- Cultural and Media Economies
Professor Paul Monks, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Science and Engineering, who worked on the development of the institutes, said: “We want ambitious, agile and focused research to be the norm for the way we do things. Richard III shows you how to do excellence with impact. But my feeling is that it’s fairly unique. The challenge for these institutes is to transcend individual projects and truly bring together critical mass that gives us real world answers.
“The institutes will help us attract and retain research stars, have a strong entrepreneurial and public impact focus, and seek to attract new research funding, despite the challenges of Brexit. The plan is to strengthen the culture within the University where research excellence thrives and where the research institutes become ‘beacons of excellence’ – shining a light on world-class research at Leicester.”
The potential local impact of the institutes is exemplified by proposals for the Institute for Precision Medicine, a joint project between the University of Leicester and Leicester University Hospitals NHS Trust. This will develop tailored approaches to treating patients that recognise them much more as individuals, with all their attendant specific needs.
Iain Gillespie said: “The real opportunity for us in Leicester is for the University and Trust to work in partnership to develop diagnostics and treatments that suit the local population we serve. Leicester is amongst the most ethnically diverse populations in the UK and unlike London, where the population is often transient, ours is very stable. That gives us both an opportunity and a responsibility to come up with health solutions that work for the genetic and cultural mix of people around us – not just such homogenised norm. It is also a fantastic opportunity to work with countries overseas that have similar population diversity and to develop treatments that could be used around the world.
Professor Monks and Gillespie said the research institutes would also offer benefits for students as they would expose them to the latest cutting edge developments. They added that other research institutes were already in the pipeline and could be announced in a second tranche around 2017.
President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle said: “Our commitment to discovery is all about imaginative new thinking and these institutes will underpin fundamental advances in our understanding of the world around us. They are also intended to be focal points for global research conversations.
“The institutes will bring together colleagues from across the University to grapple with fundamental questions that arise at the intersection of different disciplines. This is all part of our commitment to pioneer a distinctive elite of research-intensive institutions.”