Regional research collaboration
Water in a changing world
(Credit: GW4 Water Security Alliance)
The GW4 Alliance, a multiple-HEI regional consortium of the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and University of Exeter, is a vector for strategic institutional co-deployment of quality-related research (QR) funding to underpin collaborative research activities with key stakeholders across academia, industry, third sector organisations, local authorities and Government. Latest published figures show the GW4 Alliance has provided a joint investment of £2.3M in QR funding into collaborative research communities, generating a total of £27M in research income. Meaning for every £1 GW4 spends on research communities, it captures £11.73 in external research awards from research stemming from the initial GW4 pump priming spend.
A key strategy of GW4 is to drive regional economic growth and innovation through creating and sustaining research communities across disciplines using institutional co-deployment of QR funding through its Building Communities Programme. As part of this initiative, pump priming ‘Initiator Awards’ are used to fund early stage research ideas, and larger ‘Accelerator Awards’ are targeted towards the scaling up of research ideas, encouraging collaborations with external partners. Research communities underpinned by this Programme include ‘Prototypical Interactions in the Build Environment’, funded by a GW4 Accelerator Award, which seeks to aid understanding of human factor experiences within the built environment, with key impact within building construction and architecture. The project has since attracted interest from industrial project partners including Arup and Atkins Global.
The flexibility afforded to institutions to deploy QR funding has allowed the GW4 to respond quickly to emerging opportunities aligned with Government priorities. QR funding has been essential for the GW4 to target and bring together research communities to solve specific industrial and socioeconomic challenges. The GW4 Water Security Alliance was created through an input of £250,000 of QR funding with the remit of bringing together a cross-disciplinary academic community to collaborate on tackling global water security challenges. The community has since brought together key stakeholders from within industry, other funding bodies, Government and charities to inform the future development of research and training needs in solving global problems in water security. The research community was also initially supported through QR funding via the GW4 Building Communities Programme through Initiator and Accelerator Awards. These investments are an example of how the QR funding has been used to underpin and drive initial blue sky research, scale up and sustainability in research and training. Subsequently, the impact of the QR-funded work from this research community has resulted in a doctoral training programme dedicated to freshwater bioscience – the £2M Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Fresh Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT), ensuring a supply of trained researchers for the future.