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 (June 2021) the GW4 Alliance has invested over £3.1m in 112 collaborative research communities, which have generated nearly £50m in research income. This means that for every £1 GW4 spends on collaborative research communities, GW4 captures an impressive £16 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 Accelerating to Net Zero
The UK Government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to ‘Net Zero’ by 2050. This is a huge challenge and will require unprecedented activity and integration of UK research and innovation into all sectors of society.

As a regional anchor, GW4 will lead the UK and the world in accelerating to net zero emissions. GW4 will reach further; support faster implementation of new and existing solutions; and deliver fairer net zero transitions working with our partners, for the benefit of all. The GW4 Alliance will create a ‘whole system’ regional net zero testbed. We will work with government, industry, and civil society to understand the challenges and priorities faced by different sectors in our region, and identify opportunities to collaborate on innovative solutions.

GW4 Climate Alliance
The GW4 Climate Alliance is an interdisciplinary research consortium which aims to develop transformative systems responses to the climate crisis.

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)
The aim of our interdisciplinary GW4 AMR Alliance is to become the UK’s leading ‘One Health’ AMR research consortium, recognised globally. We will increase understanding of, and develop and implement effective interventions for, containing and controlling AMR.

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.