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GW4 announces funding for 7 new research and innovation communities

GW4 announces funding for 7 new research and innovation communities

7 new research and innovation communities have been awarded funding by the GW4 Alliance, which brings together the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter, as part of its Building Communities Programme. The programme aims to foster world-class research and innovation to address some of the most challenging problems the world faces today across the economy, society, the environment, and well-being.

This year, an array of collaborative communities, supported by GW4's Generator Fund, have emerged, spanning a variety of research areas from young people’s mental health to musculoskeletal wellbeing and injury, contemporary history and politics, and lithium-ion batteries. All new communities are made up of researchers from across the GW4 Alliance, underlining the strength and value of our collaborative approach to research and innovation.

These new communities join over 100 existing GW4-funded collaborative research communities, which have cumulatively generated over £87million in research income since their formation – resulting in GW4’s highest ever return on investment. Overall, for every £1 that the GW4 Alliance funds through these communities, £25 is captured in external research awards.

GW4 Alliance Director, Dr Joanna Jenkinson, said: “GW4 aims to build research communities of scale and capability to deliver a step change in world-class research and innovation that could not be achieved by one of the institutions alone. Our highest ever return on investment of 25:1 underscores the immense value of collaborative research and the impact of small-scale seed funding. We are delighted to award Generator Funding to these new communities. In doing so, we hope to foster an environment that allows for the creation of new ideas, and which empowers our researchers, at all levels, to achieve real-world impact through their work.”

The 7 newly funded research and innovation communities are:


Island of Ireland Contemporary History and Politics Network (IOI CHP)

Dr Thomas Leahy (Principal Investigator, PI), Cardiff University

This research community’s mission is to provide a network for established, early career and PhD researchers in English, Scottish and Welsh universities who study Irish/Northern Irish contemporary history and, or, politics. They also aim to enhance English, Scottish, Welsh (and beyond) public understanding of Irish/Northern Irish politics and contemporary history.


Young people’s self-harm and suicidal behaviour: Developing qualitative research to understand the influence of context and culture

Dr Faith Martin (PI), Cardiff University

Self-harm and suicidal behaviours (with varying degrees of intent to die) amongst young people are a major, global social and health issue. Culture and context, including family, are important influences on the experience of these behaviours, which must be understood to develop effective, appropriate interventions. This research community will review literature and map stakeholders, leading to qualitative research to investigate experiences of self-harm and suicidal behaviours in different, under-researched contexts (Ghana, Brazil, and South Korea), to inform the future development of context sensitive prevention programmes.


All-solid-state lithium-ion batteries with cellulose enhanced solid polymer electrolytes (ALLIANCE)

Dr Zhenyu Zhang (PI), University of Exeter

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) continue to play a vital role to promote the widespread use of electric vehicles and portable electronic devices and are contributing towards the UK’s 2035 net zero electricity target, of which, all-solid-state LIBs with solid electrolyte are expected to provide better safety and improved power and energy performance. In this project, supported by six industry partners, four research teams from GW4 universities are seeking to develop novel Solid Polymer Electrolyte (SPE) materials for LIBs.


GW4 Biopsychosocial Pain Network (BPN)

Dr Charlotte Lawrenson (PI), University of Exeter

Psychological and societal factors are central to the development and treatment of chronic pain, but how these factors affect the nervous system to produce changes in thought, mood and sensation is poorly understood. This network will use their expertise in psychology, pain management, experimental medicine, animal neurobiology and data science to generate new understanding of complex neurobiology and chronic pain.


Fabrication and Testbed Network for Next-Generation Optical Brain Computer Interfacing

Dr Daniel Whitcomb (PI), University of Bristol

Brain-computer interfacing (BCI) could fundamentally transform how humans interact with computers. Current uses include prosthetic limb control, but future use could involve transformative technologies ranging from thought-controlled electronics to joint human-machine decision making. This community will explore novel solutions to the major technical challenges limiting the potential of BCI, and test new materials for their biocompatibility, taking the first steps towards realising the potential of next-generation BCI.


Reactionary Politics Research Network

Dr Aurelien Mondon (PI), University of Bath

As exclusionary, authoritarian and reactionary politics become increasingly mainstream, it is essential for scholars from different backgrounds and disciplines to come together to provide not only a better understanding of the emerging political and social threats, but to propose ways forward. This project will consolidate and expand a network of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) researchers in the South-West and Wales to tackle a pressing, multifaceted issue facing democracy.


Physical, psychological and social factors influencing musculoskeletal injury and wellbeing in Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professional students

Dr Rebecca Hemming (PI), Cardiff University

Nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals (NMAHPs) are uniquely exposed to physical, psychological and social factors associated with increased risks of developing mental health and work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The project will develop, pilot and validate a survey evaluating physical activity, lifestyle, physical preparedness, musculoskeletal injury, mental health, wellbeing and sickness in pre-registration NMAHP students. Results will capture factors influencing staff retention and workforce health, ultimately informing intervention development and policy to improve staff wellbeing.

Further Reading

We are delighted to award Generator Funding to these new communities. In doing so, we hope to foster an environment that allows for the creation of new ideas, and which empowers our researchers, at all levels, to achieve real-world impact through their work.”

Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE - GW4 Alliance Director
University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter