Like many universities across the nation, the 12 members of the Yorkshire Universities (YU) group supported the COVID-19 response, working with the NHS, government, industry and local authorities to act swiftly.
From vaccines to treatments, analysing data, and sharing buildings, laboratories and facilities, universities of all sizes played a critical role in supporting communities in fighting the pandemic. Indeed, the Universities UK (UUK) campaign #WeAreTogether showcased the ways in which higher education institutions (HEIs) have helped large parts of society.
As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, there’s an opportunity to consider how the UK research and innovation sector could improve the management of its research estate and infrastructure.
We don’t need to wait for another ‘shock’ to materialise before we act to be more innovative and ambitious. Climate change and the environment emergencies are already happening. They are long-term and complex issues that warrant the mobilisation and collation of physical and intangible assets of HEIs, which together comprise the ‘research estate’.
Climate change, along with levelling up, and health and wellbeing are central to the civic and inclusive agenda at anchor universities in Yorkshire and the Humber.
To this end, YU, backed by the 12 vice-chancellors and principals of its members, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Yorkshire and Humber Councils (YHC) which represents 22 local authorities and two mayoral combined authorities.
This commits both parties to work together on the key opportunities and challenges facing the region. In taking this work forward, they have agreed to:
- Respond collectively to government consultations and policy initiatives
- Produce joint evidence bases and analyses to influence national government policies and strategies
- Encourage wider active engagement and participation in learning from academic research projects
- Share knowledge and assets
Evidenced-based strategy and policy matters. Cities, regions and other local areas that can demonstrate acute knowledge and understanding about their economies, societies and environments, are better placed to make strong cases to attract investment and jobs.
As part of this effort, YU is heavily committed to the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission (YHCC), the largest regional commission in the UK, which launched a regional climate action plan on 10 November 2021 during COP26.
YU convenes a research and evidence panel (REP), which provides scientific advice to the commission. This ensures that the commission connects to the region’s research base to strengthen the evidence base underpinning its work and to allow it to foster and benefit from future research.
Key to supporting the delivery of the YHCC Action Plan and other interventions is informative, authoritative and robust research and evidence, which will be underpinned by YU’s diverse, internationally recognised research base.
In order to ensure that we draw upon this depth and breadth of expertise and talent, YU is undertaking a comprehensive audit of the skills, capabilities and capacities of its member institutions, so that the Commission can identify the best and most effective expertise in the delivery of the climate action plan.
The YHCC REP has developed a questionnaire to create a dynamic database of expertise across the region. The questionnaire helps capture both the broad breadth and depth of expertise across the various institutes, centres, groups, along with individual researchers based in the region’s universities.
The REP is also looking to develop a pilot Regional Climate Observatory to monitor delivery of the regional climate action plan, as well as a sustainable development index to measure the success of interventions and progress towards achieving net zero targets for our region.
We look forward to working with regional consortia across the UK and funders to support the next generation of developing a next-generation digital approach to the management of the research estate. University research, when better connected with policy making means that environmental and societal change is achieved for the benefit of all.
Note to editors:
Yorkshire Universities – has a shared commitment to strengthen the contribution of universities and higher education institutions to the economic, social and civic well-being of people and places in Yorkshire.
The members of Yorkshire Universities are: Leeds Arts University; Leeds Conservatoire; Leeds Beckett University; Leeds Trinity University; Sheffield Hallam University; University of Bradford; University of Huddersfield; University of Hull; University of Leeds; University of Sheffield; University of York; and York St John University.
The Chair of Yorkshire Universities is Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bradford.
This example of best practice supports Jisc’s research and innovation strategy 2021-2023, aimed at improving the ‘recording of the UK’s research estate in support of a UK-wide research capability’.
Jisc – has committed to upgrade its own equipment.data platform which harvests and supplies a range of sector equipment catalogues. This will ensure it can support the full range of user applications to make research assets discoverable.
In association with sector partners, Jisc is looking at how digital, data and technology approaches can support innovation in the research estate – for example to support decisions about renewal and strategic commissioning, informing place strategies and policies as well as the environmental management of the research estate and significant investments in future technology.