Research Capabilities and Priority Programmes

Collaborative research that answers the big questions

We identify areas of complementary expertise across our universities to develop research communities at scale. Our research communities address major global and industrial challenges encompassing a range of research areas and disciplines from pay equality, mental health and nanoparticle drugs. To date (September, 2020) we have invested over £2.9m in 93 collaborative research communities, generating over £46m in research income. This means for every £1 we’ve spent on collaborative research communities, we have captured over £15 in external research awards.

Our collaborative research recognises and builds on our region’s strengths in:

  • Aerospace and advanced engineering
  • New energy systems
  • Next generation microelectronics
  • Resilience, environment and sustainability
  • Creative and cultural economy
  • Living well
  • Digital innovation

Our research communities have worked with over 400 external partners as diverse as the Met Office, Airbus, NHS, Natural History Museum, Veolia and the BBC. They deliver outputs and outcomes not possible as a single institution and many of our communities have contributed to knowledge transfer and real-world impact in terms of addressing policy, economic, societal, health and environment challenges.

Find out more about our research communities and visit our Funding and Development section to find out more about our latest research funding calls.


Priority Programmes: Our response to global challenges

We continue to identify priority research themes and flagship research communities in response to global challenges facing society today.

GW4 Climate Alliance
GW4 has globally recognised research strengths, academic communities and assets in climate resilience; from exploring the social science of climate change at the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations at Cardiff University to conducting world-leading research at the Centre for Resilience in Environment and Water, Waste at the University of Exeter.

GW4 has the power to bring together our academic excellence with industry and organisations, such as the Met Office to address the global challenges of climate change. We intend to accelerate our position as international leaders in climate research by developing a strategic programme to address the risks and problems resulting from climate change.

GW4 AMR Alliance (Antimicrobial Resistance)
Society is facing a rise in the number of bacteria becoming resistant to existing antibiotics without an increase in new antibiotics or new treatments. As such, AMR is one of the greatest emerging threats to human health. We aim to tackle this global challenge with an interdisciplinary approach, creating a GW4 network of unparalleled expertise.

GW4 institutions have complimentary expertise in the field of AMR and through continued collaborative working will build scale and impact. From evolutional biological research at the Miner Centre at the University of Bath to our work with NHS Trusts and Public Health Wales, GW4 is home to leading research facilities and expertise.

The University of Bristol is leading the Medical Research Foundation’s National PhD Training Programme in Antimicrobial Resistance Research. It is the only national PhD Training Programme that will train new researchers to explore ways to tackle antimicrobial resistance. The University of Exeter is also involved in this cross-institutional training programme.

GW4 Water Security Alliance
The GW4 Water Security Alliance (WSA) is the largest UK water research consortium – and one of the largest worldwide. It brings together academics and stakeholders with a common vision of addressing the impact of global change on water to benefit people and ecosystems.


Research Culture

GW4 supports a positive research culture and provides opportunities and initiatives through our GW4 Talent and Skills programme to help foster a supportive environment for all our colleagues engaged in research.

Our universities are working with the Wellcome Trust on their reimagine research culture initiative to build a better research culture – one that is creative, inclusive and honest.

The GW4 Alliance has adopted the Russell Group Research Integrity statement of cooperation in cross-institutional research misconduct allegations, which aims to support the efforts of researcher communities to foster research integrity (also known as good practice in research or the responsible conduct of research).

GW4 institutions also support and promote the responsible use of metrics and quantitative indicators of research, with some GW4 members signing the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). DORA is a commitment to assess research excellence through a process of qualitative review rather than using proxy measures of quality, such as publication in journals with a high impact factor.