The GW4 Alliance, which brings together four of the most research-intensive and innovative universities in the UK: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter, has launched its new Strategic Vision and priorities for the next five years.
At the International Convention Centre in Wales, to an invited audience of over 250 internal and external partners, the Vice Chancellors of the four universities showcased GW4’s achievements to date and announced GW4’s new strategic priority areas:
- Tackling global challenges through advanced cyber and digital transformation
- Effective routes to accelerate the transition to sustainable Net Zero
- Capitalising on creative communities to foster sociocultural growth
- Advancing health and wellbeing research and innovation for all
Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, GW4 Alliance Director, said: “Our strategic priorities focus not only on our areas of collective expertise and strengths, but also consider how, by working together, we can best address major societal problems and national and international policy.
“Some of the most pressing global issues are incredibly complex and as such require an interdisciplinary response to help tackle them. GW4 brings together researchers and external partners from across different disciplines to work at scale to gain new insights and develop innovative solutions.
“As we celebrate our 10-year anniversary I’m thrilled to launch our new Strategic Vision for the future. Now is the time to take action and seize this fantastic opportunity. There has never been a better time to work with us to co-create solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing the world today.”
Professor Ian White, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of Bath and Chair of GW4 Council, said: “I am very excited about GW4’s new Strategic Vision for the next five years. The GW4 Alliance plays a leading role in bringing together expertise, stimulating creativity and breaking down barriers to advancement, allowing us to seek and explore ambitious and innovative approaches to solving key contemporary challenges.”
Professor Evelyn Welch, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of Bristol said: “GW4’s new vision and strategy allows us to work together at pace and scale, and really deliver in terms of tackling the world's biggest and most complex challenges. These are big ambitions, but by working together and with external partners we can achieve so much more than one institution alone. I am very excited for the next five years of GW4.”
Professor Colin Riordan, President and Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University, said: “As one of the founding VC’s of GW4 I’m incredibly proud of having been part of GW4 for the past ten years and delighted by what we have achieved. We have a fantastic joint vision for the future and I’m confident GW4 will continue its incredible success, particularly in the four big strategic areas we have identified as areas of great challenge and opportunity.”
Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive at the University of Exeter said: “Whilst the GW4 partnership is already very successful and has a great track record, our new vision will enable us to play an even bigger role in tackling some of the big societal challenges facing not only our region, but the entire world. Our new Strategic Vision is focussed on real issues and challenges and we will deliver real impact for people and organisations.”
Cyber and digital transformation
Digital innovation underpins every aspect of society from smart phones to hospital equipment and government censuses. It powers innovation at scale and at speed, and offers exciting new opportunities, but it also presents new challenges.
Professor Awais Rashid, Professor of Cyber Security, Department of Computer Science at the University of Bristol said: “The biggest challenge we face is identifying vulnerabilities before attackers find them and developing solutions that anticipate where future problems are going to arise.
“GW4 universities have specialist world-leading research facilities which allow us to run real-world simulations and test different scenarios. We are also training the next generation of future research leaders to think holistically about issues and develop interdisciplinary solutions, which interestingly is what industry is increasingly asking for.”
The region is also home to key national activity that is at the cutting edge of this technological revolution, including GCHQ, Office of National Statistics and CSConnected - the UK’s strength in places funded semi-conductor cluster. GW4 will continue to build on these collaborations to accelerate understanding and address key cross-sector challenges in cyber and digital transformation.
Sustainable Net Zero
The climate crisis is one of the biggest threats facing humanity and the natural world with the effects of climate change already being felt through flooding, heat stress, coastal erosion and a loss of biodiversity.
Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, Professor of Psychology at the University of Bath and GW4 Net Zero Ambassador said: “Achieving Net Zero emissions will require unprecedented research and innovation activity and integration of new and existing solutions into all sectors of society. However, GW4 is well placed to respond to this challenge. GW4’s Climate community already includes 450 researchers, local authorities, businesses, and community organisations working together to build a unique interdisciplinary approach to sustainable Net Zero.”
GW4’s innovative facilities such as the National Composites Centre, IAAPS, CAST and the Exeter Centre for Future Clean Mobility are leading the way in unlocking green and inclusive growth opportunities.
The region is also home to more climate expertise than any other area worldwide and has a high concentration of businesses in the Net Zero economy.
The GW4 Alliance region is an established powerhouse in cultural, digital and creative industries, employing 110,000 people across almost 14,000 businesses, with a wealth of creative and cultural assets from film production and animation to Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
GW4 institutions are already home to a number of distinct, but complementary multi-million pound, multidisciplinary investments in creative industries which include Bristol and Bath Creative R&D, Clwstwr, Media Cymru and MyWorld.
Professor Claire Gorrara, Dean for Research and Innovation for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Cardiff University said: “I believe it’s in the creative sectors that GW4 has the greatest potential for growth and innovation, and we have two extraordinary big pivot points around the South West of England and South Wales. Working together as a consortium will really help us scale up that endeavor and enable us to make the most of the fastest growing area in the UK economy.”
Health and wellbeing
The GW4 Alliance brings together three Medical Schools, two Dental Schools, a Veterinary School and five University NHS Health Trusts.
GW4 universities have internationally leading strengths in population health, meaning they can help identify what makes people healthy or unhealthy, ultimately leading to improved health.
They are especially well-placed to trial new approaches to prevent chronic diseases and long-term illnesses associated with ageing and to support research in mental health and neuroscience, and have significant strengths in digital health and smart technologies.
By focusing on advancing health and wellbeing research and innovation for all, GW4 has an opportunity to address the health inequalities across its region which has coastal, rural and city poverty and socioeconomic inequality.
Dr Kin Wing (Ray) Chan, Wellcome Research Fellow and GW4 Crucible participant from the University of Exeter commented: “The Covid-19 pandemic was a wakeup call for society, it showed how a new disease can devastate health, wellbeing and the world economy.
“Antimicrobial resistant infections, directly causes over one million deaths and contributes to nearly five million deaths globally every year. GW4 brings together researchers from across different disciplines along with external partners, creating the UK’s leading ‘One Health’ research consortium to tackle the socioeconomic threat of antimicrobial resistance and provide innovative solutions for human, animal and environmental health.”
Taking action together for the future
For the past ten years, GW4’s universities have worked together and with more than 400 business and non-academic partners to create and deliver bespoke activities to develop its people and build on their research and innovation strengths. Collaboration is at the heart of GW4 and working together makes GW4 greater together than the sum of its parts.
Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, GW4 Alliance Director, added: “Our region is uniquely placed to support the UK Government’s agenda and boost economic growth through our internationally recognised world-leading research and innovation, but there is still much to be done to further support regional economic growth, equality and productivity. Together we have the power to shape and inform policy and the skills, expertise and visibility to attract investment. Change doesn’t happen alone.”
Download GW4’s Strategic Vision 2023-2028