UNIVERSITY RESEARCH STRATEGY 2007-2012
The University vision is:
To be recognised as a new model of a University through far-reaching engagement with
business, community and international partners, shaping the future success of our
graduates operating in the global environment, and advancing the prosperity of our region.
In pursuit of this vision our distinctiveness is enhanced by leading edge research in
strategically important disciplines. We will sustain and grow our centres of research
excellence and will invest in facilities and staffing to ensure a thriving and active research
Furthermore, a key aspect of our mission is to:
undertake and exploit research, creating new knowledge that is disseminated, transferred
and applied; achieving international standing in key research areas.
The University recognises that the nurturing and delivery of high quality enquiry and user driven
research provides an essential ingredient to both enhance the student experience and to facilitate
meaningful and holistic engagement with business, industry, research organisations and the
professions. Furthermore, the University will pursue such research to enable it to make an
increasing contribution to sustainable economic growth in the region and beyond through expertise
and knowledge exchange, whilst exposing our students to state of the art skills and techniques
which will help them achieve their maximum potential, developing their approaches to creativity and
innovation, and equipping them well for their future careers.
In order to both continue research development in relation to the international standing in key areas
and to promulgate and support a vibrant culture for research and advanced scholarship throughout
the University, three Research Institutes have been established. As research and scholarship
provide a fundamental basis for delivery of the mission in learning and teaching and in all aspects of
its engagement with business, the professions, the community and international and European
partners, the University has integrated all research activities into the framework of these Research
Institutes. The purpose of each Research Institute will be to both facilitate and foster the
internationally excellent research in specific areas whilst encouraging and supporting the
development of a broader body of research activity with a particular focus on provision of
knowledge exchange with business and the professions. The three Research Institutes, which
directly map on to the University Faculty/School structure, are the Health and Human Sciences
Research Institute (HHSRI), the Science and Technology Research Institute (STRI) and the Social
Sciences, Arts and Humanities Research Institute (SSAHRI). Further description of the research
infrastructure and management associated with the Research Institutes is provided in the Appendix.
Research remains at core of the University’s corporate strategy to facilitate far reaching
engagement with business, community and international partners. Hence the University will
continue to develop and undertake research of international excellence in identified areas deploying
these research strengths to the benefit of a wide range of regional, national and international
partners whilst ensuring that our students’ experience is also enriched through contact with staff
who deliver high quality research in their discipline. In addition, each of the Research Institutes will
widen and deepen their research engagement with their respective user and professional
communities both disseminating and applying new knowledge, and exploiting research outcomes.
1. Research Culture and Students
The University is committed to promoting an inclusive and vibrant research culture which values
creativity and innovation, together with strong methodology and sound practice. This culture is
particularly embedded within the Research Institutes and it manifests itself in relation to staffing
policy that provides appropriate support for staff research careers and a wide range of development
opportunities for staff engaged in research. In particular, each Institute will continue to develop
specific support for early career researchers, enhancing the current mentoring and the opportunity
to access early career internal pump-priming grant funding already established. In addition, staffing
policy provides significant academic staff time to undertake research which typically varies from a
baseline of 20% up to 80% at the professorial level. Therefore, in all Research Institutes formal
procedures are in place to annually review the balance of academic staff workload between the
variety of commitments in order that appropriate time allocation is provided for research.
The University regards the supervision of research students as a crucially important function, and all
staff involved as supervisors will be required to attend a formal programme of training delivered by
more experienced practitioners. In this context, the University will continue to evolve and develop
strategies to support research students, to improve their supervision and to develop the facilities
available for them to undertake research. Hence the University will progressively seek to improve
student success in achieving their research goals and the associated research degrees within a
timeframe of the normal registration period for that award.
2. Far-reaching Engagement with Business and the Professions
As identified in the University’s Strategic Plan 2007-2012, the University is transforming into a
demand-led and market leading institution with dynamic and pervasive relationships with business
and the professions. Research and advanced scholarship within the University will provide a crucial
element to facilitate the delivery of this vision. In particular, the University will continue to support
and strengthen its key areas of research excellence, increasing their international profile and
standing and providing high quality research foci that will assist in both knowledge exchange and
technology transfer with business, industry and the professions. Furthermore, this investment in
both enquiry-led and user-led research will enable the nurturing of new research talent in order to
continue sustainable research development into the future.
On a broader front, the Research Institutes will also provide an infrastructure and environment for a
wider range of research and advanced scholarship activities across the University which will engage
with regional and national businesses to extend and deepen our knowledge exchange and
technology transfer activities through collaborative research and development, and successful
schemes such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and industrial CASE studentships. In addition,
research clusters within the Research Institutes will increase their focus on a delivery of contract
research, consultancy and research aligned with the provision of business support.
The University has already established a set of professional doctorate degrees across all its major
disciplines to facilitate the necessary high-level skills and knowledge development required for
business, industry and the professions. This professional research skills agenda will be a major
pursuit of the Research Institutes in their engagement with both business, the professions and the
postgraduate student body. Hence, the Research Institutes will continue to develop appropriate
professional doctorate degrees and will market them to both potential students and the relevant
business/professional sector. In this way the University will provide for the necessary research
skills requirements and also the wide-ranging, high-level, expertise necessary to deliver
comprehensive business support, knowledge exchange and technology transfer across all the
sectors in which it engages.
3. High Quality International and European Partnerships
The Research Institutes already have many research links and collaborations, particularly within
Europe and North America. A pursuit of the University international strategy is to develop stronger
and more pervasive partnerships with both academic institutions and business organisations both in
Europe and internationally. The research clusters within the Research Institutes will therefore seek
to strengthen existing collaborative links and networks and to establish new research partnerships,
with specific priority being given to the Asia-Pacific region, South Asia, the Middle East, as well as
Europe and North America. Hence we will increase the volume, range and depth of our
collaborative research partnerships with high quality partners that will also enable us to provide
knowledge exchange, technology transfer and consultancy support to both international and
The research partnerships with international and European Universities will be developed through
grant and other funding applications for joint research projects, staff and student exchanges,
together with joint research student supervision, leading to joint publications in international journals
and at conferences. A particular focus in relation to entering into, and the development of, new
European research partnerships with both companies and universities in consortia arrangements
and other project types which may be facilitated under the EU Seventh Framework Programme will
also be pursued throughout the period of the plan.
4. Advancement of Regional Prosperity
The University defines its region in broad terms to include the Eastern region, the
Hertfordshire/London region and also the regions and sectors which relate to specific areas of its
activity and engagement. We will therefore continue to develop research in the appropriate areas
and sectors to provide for strong linkage with our major regional business/industry sectors to
enhance economic prosperity for the regions. In particular, future research development will be
focused on the growing biomedical/biosciences cluster around BioPark Hertfordshire in
collaboration with industry sector partners, taking forward research in pharmacy/pharmacology,
medicine and medical technology. Another area of strategic investment to support the growing
requirements of the regional creative industry is the strengthening of our activities in film, music and
media. Hence a specific focus in SSAHRI will be the continuing incremental development of user-
led research associated with these sectors within the creative and cultural industries. A further
important regional focus concerns the 2012 Olympics and we will collaborate with regional partners
to undertake necessary research in support of their delivery.
5. Research Funding, Exploitation and Dissemination
The University has already made a major, positive strategic commitment to formulating the highest
quality submissions in fourteen units of assessment submissions which will be made to the 2008
Research Assessment Exercise (see Appendix). Clearly this focus will not only assist in
establishing the international reputation of the research activities within the three Institutes, it will
also lead to an improvement in the quality research (QR) funding received by each of these areas.
In addition, external funding to support the continuing development of high quality research will be
increased throughout the period of the plan, growing the strategic engagement with both the public
and charitable funding bodies and, in particular, the business/industrial and professional user
communities for whom the research outcomes are delivered. Hence the University will strengthen
its links and activities with the UK Research Councils, EU research organisations, public and private
sector research establishments, the Regional Development Agency and specifically the Science
and Technology Forum, and the UK Technology Strategy Board. In this latter case the University
will be proactive in its engagement with the established Knowledge Transfer Networks and
Innovation Platforms, seeking to develop strong collaborative partnerships and to guide the
innovation agenda in areas where it has research expertise and strengths. Furthermore, University
research centres, units and groups will increase their engagements with their user/professional
communities through collaborative research funding applications and the development of research
targeted at the requirements of these users.
The University Research Institutes will actively pursue an innovation and exploitation agenda
engaging in both knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange with their appropriate user
communities. In addition, they will engage with innovation and exploitation through key funding
bodies such as the Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board. Indeed, the user driven
research funding and exploitation programme being taken forward by the Technology Strategy
Board will be a major focus for the future direction and engagement of the Research Institutes.
The University already provides a central service delivered by dedicated expert staff for Intellectual
Property and Contracts Support (IPACS) which also aids the Research Institutes in relation to
drafting of research contracts and the transfer of technology to commercial organisations. The staff
base within the IPACS team will be strengthened, in particular to meet the increasing volume of
user driven research activities and the growth in research exploitation over the period of the plan.
An increased focus on the dissemination of research outcomes and, in particular, the public
understanding of these activities will be implemented throughout the period of the plan. The
Research Institutes and the University Research Office will be supported by the University
Marketing and Communications function in order to develop this public profile following a
coordinated strategic approach. An example of this development is Institute Research Showcase
events, the first of which, delivered by SSAHRI, proved very successful. Hence the other two
Research Institutes will also deliver several day long Showcase events during the early part of the
plan. Finally, a continuing programme of dissemination events and activities will be delivered,
together with both paper-based and electronic media circulation to the wider community.
6. The Research Institutes
6.1 Health and Human Sciences Research Institute
The Health and Human Sciences Research Institute (HHSRI) comprises a diverse range of
disciplines in the fields of health/social care and human sciences. A substantial quantity of research
activity in both the human and health sciences is user-led and oriented toward improving the
prosperity of the local community. Much research led by HHSRI is conducted in NHS, community or
commercial organizations (e.g. School of Life Sciences’ collaboration with the pharmaceutical
sector) and is oriented towards promoting the regional knowledge economy. HHSRI staff also make
a substantial contribution to the R&D directorates and committees in Hertfordshire which play a key
role in strategic developments of R&D in the local NHS /social care services.
The Schools and Research Centres that make up HHSRI are co-located on the College Lane
campus in three adjacent buildings, the CP Snow Building, Wright Building and the recently
completed Science Research Infrastructure Fund (SRIF) funded, £2.5 million, Health Research
Research activity is identified with either a School, or with a Research Centre as follows:
1. Life Sciences, which comprises research in physiology and pharmacology, biotechnology
and molecular biology, sport and exercise science and geography and environmental
2. Nursing and midwifery.
4. Health and Emergency Professions, which comprises research in paramedic science,
physiotherapy, and radiography.
6. Social, Community and Health Studies, which comprises research in social and community
research and counselling.
Each of these Schools has identified specific priority areas for research and these can be found on
the HHSRI website.
Two key strategic initiatives have been identified for HHSRI itself which are:
Promotion of interdisciplinary R&D across the Schools and Research Centres within
Develop interdisciplinary research initiatives where these enhance the response to
regional, national and international research opportunities.
Both of these key strategic initiatives have been informed by the University Strategic Plan 2007 to
2012, in which the following strategic aims were identified:
Growing leading edge research in strategically important disciplines.
Contributing to the future prosperity of the region either through development of the
‘knowledge economy’ or translational research.
Strategic developments in research in HHSRI for the period 2007 to 2012 include:
Responding to national and regional developments arising from implementation of the
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) R&D strategy. In particular:
- East of England Primary Care Research Network (PCRN-EoE) – more
specifically taking a lead on user involvement in R&D.
- Collaborative bids with research leaders from the NHS, and other HEIs –
more specifically joint bids under the NIHR ‘Programme Grants in Applied
- Ensuring HHSRI involvement with other NIHR driven developments –
more specifically close involvement with the Strategic Health Authority for
the East of England.
Investing in submissions under Theme 1 – Health, of the FP7 programme. This will involve
developing further the partnerships with other UK and EU organizations.
Accelerated development of a Clinical Trials Coordinating Centre (CTCC) in order to move
toward financial self sufficiency. The number of trials either designed or managed will rise
from 4 trials in 2007 to 16 by 2010. This will be achieved through close working between
the CTCC, HHSRI and the Pan Herts R&D Consortium.
Develop the research base in Pharmacy/Pharmacology. Three specific developments are
noteworthy which are: i) the development of a new centre for patient safety research in
collaboration with the Luton and Dunstable hospital; ii) drug delivery and; iii) work with
Class III pathogens.
Maximizing the facilities for R&D and translational research provided by the University-led
BioPark facility which opened in 2006. Two developments are underway to support the
R&D programme in Pharmacy namely; drug delivery, and work with Class III pathogens.
Other opportunities will be strategically pursued.
- develop and extend psychological research in health and other applied
settings at the user interface.
- integration and development of non-verbal modes of learning, e.g. working
with Hertfordshire County Council Early Years.
- user-led research with organisations e.g. FIT Science; pursuing a
behavioural change centre with the Building Research Establishment
(BRE); collaboration with business solution providers and the public in the
field of ‘green psychology’.
The establishment of a Centre for Life Span and Chronic Illness Research (CLiCIR). This
centre will be largely based on partnerships with NHS based centres of research
excellence especially West Herts Hospitals, and other Higher Education Institutions e.g.
Centre for Longitudinal Studies (University of London), UCL.
Development of research facilities in the Biological Services Unit in Life Sciences – this
development will involve seeking funding from external sources.
Develop the research base in postgraduate medicine.
6.2 Science and Technology Research Institute
The Science and Technology Research Institute (STRI) embraces all research of the academic
Schools of Computer Science, Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics, Electronic, Communication
and Electrical Engineering, and Aerospace Automotive and Design Engineering. The majority of
research staff and students from these Schools, together with a dedicated Institute core research
staff, are housed within the Institute’s 2700 m research office and laboratory suite on the College
Lane Campus. The research activities of the Institute are organised within four Research Centres:
Centre for Astrophysics Research (CAR)
Centre for Atmospheric and Instrumentation Research (CAIR)
Centre for Computer Science and Informatics Research (CCSIR)
Centre for Engineering and Applied Sciences Research (CEASR).
Each Centre hosts a number of cognate Research Groups under the coordination of a Steering
Committee whilst overall strategic direction is provided by a Research Institute Management
Committee chaired by the Institute Director. The close interaction between researchers from all four
Centres creates the STRI’s vibrant multidisciplinary research atmosphere, supported through
weekly open-access seminar programmes in the physics, computer science, and engineering fields.
Each of the four STRI Research Centres will significantly advance their national and international
research standing over the coming five years. Specifically:-
The Centre for Astrophysics Research, CAR, already one of the largest astronomy groups in the
UK, will be recognised globally as a centre of excellence in astronomy research. This will be
- A significant increase in the number of international visiting researchers, accommodated
with new resident researchers in an additional SRIF-funded office/laboratory
- Targeted studentships in key research areas where exceptionally strong candidates are
known to be available.
- The completion of a new SRIF-funded Polarimetry Research Laboratory to undertake
ground-breaking work on new methods for the rapid detection of minute quantities of
biological material. This work, in collaboration with staff from CAIR and international
colleagues, will find application in diverse areas from the monitoring of hazardous
biological agents in counter-terrorism of military fields, to detection of life on other
The Centre for Atmospheric and Instrumentation Research, CAIR, will have secured full
membership of NCAS, the UK’s National Centre for Atmospheric Research, and will be recognised
internationally for excellent work in specific areas of atmospheric research. This will be achieved
- Strengthening existing collaborations with researchers in the USA and Europe in the field
of atmospheric dynamics associated with air quality and health.
- Increase market share in the US and EU for specialist research instruments used in
climate research, capitalising on the ever increasing prominence of this global issue.
- The recruitment of leading young research staff, funded through an expanded contract
portfolio, to complement the existing research strengths of the Centre.
The Centre for Engineering and Applied Sciences Research, CEASR, will be recognised as a
leading European facility for BioMEMS (Biological Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems) research,
and will deliver internationally leading research in sustainable energy technologies, advanced
materials technology, biomaterials and metal joining processes. This will be achieved through
- The completion of a new SRIF-funded BioMEMS and Microengineering Research
Laboratory Suite to provide an industry-standard cleanroom and microfabrication
facilities capable of meeting the demanding requirements of international-level
collaborative research with business and commerce. This will also include a significant
increase in industry funded PhD students.
- The development of new opportunities for industry-collaborative computational fluid
dynamics research in sustainable technologies arising through membership of the EU
Hydrogen Joint Initiative technology platform and Hydrogen Rail research Technology
- To extend the interdisciplinary research to develop bio-compatible materials for use in
bioMems devices and for other healthcare areas such as implant corrosion resistance.
- To take forward developments of self-propagating high-temperature synthesis methods
for the production of advanced materials and nano-crystalline powders.
- To extend the research into self-piercing rivets and also initiate new research in joining of
dissimilar metals and the transferring of this knowledge to industry.
The Centre for Computer Science and Informatics Research, CCSIR, will have achieved
recognised international excellence in the key research areas through:
- Further expansion of its already substantial portfolio of EU-funded collaborations
studying the physiological and psychological reactions of people working or living in
close proximity with robots, a field of ever increasing importance in both domestic and
- Intensified international collaboration through increased numbers of international visitors
in the Wolfson Biological and Neural Computation Laboratory to expand research in
neuro-physiological models of associative memory and the area of biological regulation,
focusing on the development of algorithms and computational tools for Systems Biology
- Exploiting unprecedented funding opportunities created by the current interest in - and
associated commitment of resources to - Systems Biology, building on both our excellent
reputation for research in this field and a significant increase in international visibility due
to the recent election by the global SBML (Systems Biology Markup Language)
community of one of our group members as SBML Editor.
- Expansion of world-leading compiler research on adjoint mode Fortran, supported in the
Centre by EPSRC and conducted jointly with the Oxford-based Numerical Algorithms
Group, Aachen University (German Centre of Excellence for Scientific Computation) and
- Further development of the leading edge research into optical networking, with specific
emphasis on novel improvements to the architecture and performance of optical access
- Extending existing EPSRC-funded work in building, evaluating and evolving high quality
software intensive systems.
6.3 Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities Research Institute
The Social Sciences, Art and Humanities Research Institute (SSAHRI) supports and encourages
research and study at research degree level in six academic Schools (Art and Design, Business,
Education, Film Music and Media, Humanities and Law) and in the Centre for Excellence in
Learning and Teaching (CELT). Most SSAHRI staff are located at the University’s De Havilland
The Research Institute includes established internationally important research groups in History and
Philosophy, and research clusters of growing international importance in Art, Design, Film, Music
and Media, Business and Management, Education, and English. Areas of particular strength within
the Research Institute include a range of specialisms from eighteenth-century British social history
to the philosophy of narrativity, by way of renaissance literature and holocaust education.
Curatorial practice, electronic art, music, fashion and new technology also form substantial areas of
high-level research activity. As do accounting and finance, institutional economics, employment
studies and complexity theory.
Some of this research activity is organized in established centres, including:
Centre for Research in Electronic Art & Communication (CREAC)
Centre for Research in Employment Studies (CRES)
Centre for Research in Finance and Accounting(CRIFA)
Centre for Research in Institutional Economics (CRIE)
Centre for Research into Practice (CR2P)
Complexity and Management Centre (CMC)
Makers of Things (MoT)
Theorising visual art and design (tVAD)
The institute has over 140 registered research students including many on its three professional
doctoral programmes: the Education Doctorate (EdD); the Doctorate in Business Administration
(DBA) and the Doctorate of Management (DMan). It also employs three dedicated administrators
supporting conference organization, project management and the administration of research
SSAHRI will pursue a number of strategic objectives over the next five years as follows:
expand postgraduate provision across the Research Institute by creating attractive and
intellectually competitive new programmes at Masters level and as Professional Doctorates.
A professional doctorate in Heritage Studies will be developed.
grow the proportion of staff producing nationally and internationally recognised research.
consolidate and expand a number of key areas including – eighteenth-century history,
narrativity, employment studies, institutional economics and complexity management.
build on existing expertise in material culture, business facing contract research both
regionally and nationally and research on the European Economy and Business, to create a
broader portfolio of research funding and activity. Specifically, European funding under
Framework 7 will be aggressively pursued.
create a Research Institute-wide concentration of expertise in Music, Film and the Music
and Film Industries (including management, creative practice, and history).
foster Knowledge Transfer Partnership projects in Fashion and Design, Business, Law and
Research Infrastructure and Management
In each Research Institute research clusters have been identified as first tier key research areas
where the University has provided additional support through the strategic allocation of the HEFCE
QR funding obtained from the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) against specific
research plans. Hence, as a strong signal of its commitment to the development of high quality
research in identified key areas, the University has strategically allocated all the QR funding to
enable ongoing research enhancement. These areas, which obtained either grades 4 or 5 (national
excellence and a proportion of international excellence), are Nursing and Psychology in HHSRI,
Computer Science and Physics in STRI, and History and Philosophy in SSAHRI. In addition to
these six first tier key research clusters, a further 8 broad areas forming units of assessment for the
2008 RAE have also received dedicated support from either HEFCE capability funding (Art and
Design, Art Therapies, Social Work, Radiography and Physiotherapy) or from Schools and Faculties
as a consequence of a performance at either grades 3a or 3b in 2001 RAE on the basis that some
significant research at a level of national excellence had already been established.
As the Research Institutes undertake international level research across a number of areas, the
research structure beneath each of them comprises both Research Centres, Units and Groups
where the former need to be agreed by the University Research Committee. Hence the Research
Institutes and their component Research Centres provide appropriate, high quality, dedicated
research space for full-time researchers and research students whilst employing administrative and
technical staff to support their research activities. In particular, all University research students are
located in the context of one of the Research Institutes, and research students go through a first
stage of registration for their research degrees by application to the specific Institute Research
Each of the Research Institutes is directed by a Dean of Faculty and managed by a Head appointed
by the Vice-Chancellor. The strategic direction and overall operation of the Research Institute is
determined by a Management Committee which comprises the Director as Chair, the Head and a
small number of senior research leaders (often Heads of Centre). At the University level the
Directors and Heads of the Research Institutes sit on the University Research Committee, a sub-
Committee of the University Academic Board, which is chaired by the Pro Vice-Chancellor
(Research) and has the Deputy Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for research on its membership.
This Committee provides the necessary report to the Vice-Chancellor, in particular, through these
two senior post-holders. Targets for research delivery are promulgated from the Office of the Vice-
Chancellor to the constituent elements of the Research Institutes, and monitoring of these targets
takes place through the Faculty/School management structure as well as at the University Research
Committee. A central University Research Office provides both administrative and financial advisor
support for both the application and operation of funding for research projects.
Research student recruitment and registration for higher degrees is focused within the Institutes,
and administrative staffing is provided for that purpose. Furthermore, they each have an Institute
Research Degrees Board, acting as a sub-Board of the University Research Degrees Board,
undertaking the initial scrutiny and approval of research degree registrations from students within
the Institute prior to their onward transmission to the University Research Degrees Board for the
final approval stage. The University has an extensive programme of Generic Research Training
that offers over 60 sessions and is designed to meet the Research Council’s Joint Skills Statement.
Hence, based on a Training Needs Analysis and in discussion with their supervisory team
(comprising a Principal Supervisor and at least one Second Supervisor), research students
undertake a selection of sessions from the programme to meet specific Joint Skills Statement
requirements. In addition, the University hosts the UK GRAD hub for the Eastern region.