Research_SPOTLIGHT Newsletter #2 SPRING V2 1_RH/EW

SPOTLIGHT Research Newsletter
Professor Caroline Meyer
Student Test <>

A decorative email header in yellow and black with the title SPOTLIGHT and tagline Celebrating our Research Community  

Welcome to the University of Warwick’s Research Newsletter, Spotlight.

Spotlight showcases the brilliance of our PhD students, researchers, technicians and academics - the foundation of our research community.

Please share widely among your teams and encourage others to sign up to the next edition

In this second edition of Spotlight, we are highlighting some of the outstanding achievements of our research community over the spring term, including how our researchers in Life Sciences are contributing to a Green Paper designed to shape national strategy on promoting fresh British-grown produce, and a new report from the School of Law on how arts and culture can be used to help address both policing and social improvement priorities.

I’m also delighted to announce that we received a further £600,000 from Research England’s Enhancing Research Culture Fund in 2022-23 to develop new activities in response to the R&D People and Culture Strategy. You can read more about this and all our recent research successes in this newsletter.

Best wishes,

Caroline signature
Professor Caroline Meyer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Research Culture  

At Warwick, we’re committed to leading the way by providing a positive culture which supports all to thrive to deliver the best research. Take a look at our updated Research Culture pages to learn more about our research culture initiatives and how you can get involved.

Photograph of researchers talking

Enhancing Research Culture Fund

We have received a further £600,000 from Research England’s Enhancing Research Culture Fund in 2022-23 to develop and initiate new activities in response to the R&D People and Culture Strategy. The funding was allocated through an internal funding call to support 22 research culture projects from across the University. These include initiatives to improve the laboratory environment, and enable internships providing research opportunities for underrepresented groups.

HR Excellence in Research Award

The University is committed to regularly reviewing and improving the research environment and working conditions for researchers and providing support and opportunities for development. We’ve held accreditation to the European Commission and Vitae’s HR Excellence in Research Award since 2012, and I’m pleased to say that the University was successful in gaining reaccreditation at its eight-year review in December.

Research Operations Group

Last autumn, I helped establish the Research Operations Group (ROG), which brings together Professional Services leads in areas such as R&IS, Finance and Procurement together with academic and departmental representatives.

Our ambition is to affect positive change for all those involved in or supporting research, through streamlining processes, removing perceived challenges and knowledge sharing.

So what is ROG doing? Firstly, we listened to our community and identified common themes; for example, around areas such as post-award support, contracting, travel and recruitment. The themes identified have formed the basis of ROG’s action plan and work is now underway to deliver on this.

The themes we aim to tackle include training and development, research ethics, industry partnerships, research overseas, grants management and much more!

If you have any questions, or would like to get involved, please email Dr Navdeep Bains.

News & Events

WorldCUR-BCUR 2023

I am delighted to confirm that Warwick’s Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) is going to be hosting both the World Congress on Undergraduate Research (WorldCUR) and the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) 2023 from 4-6 April 2023 in a spectacular celebration of global undergraduate research!

WorldCUR-BCUR 2023 is the first time these events have ever been held at the same time by the same institution. More than 600 student delegates from over 30 countries will attend the events. The research will be presented in interdisciplinary panels with themes ranging from “Community” to “The Future”, and all disciplines will be represented at the event.  

This is a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase undergraduate work, study, and innovation within Warwick’s world-leading research culture. The conference programme is currently in production and will be available later this spring.


Warwick/UHCW Research Partnership Accelerator Event

Panel discussion at the event

On 6 March, I had the pleasure of opening our Warwick/UHCW Research Partnership Accelerator Event. The event was attended by academics from across our campus, including clinicians and research support staff from across the two institutions.

The event was organised to celebrate our joint partnership with UHCW. We heard from our Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Croft and Professor Andy Hardy (Chief Executive Officer, UHCW) about the importance of the partnership to deliver the strategic objectives of both institutions.

Attendees then heard from Professor Gavin Perkins (Deputy Dean, WMS) about current joint working and we heard from researchers about their excellent collaborative research. Following a session by Professor Andrew McAinsh (Pro-Dean Research, WMS) and Professor Kiran Patel (Chief Medical Officer) on what the future partnership could look like, delegates discussed how we can support the partnership moving forward and we will be exploring all the great ideas that emerged.

Faculty of Social Sciences

Wartime economics: Understanding the Russian economy

The war in Ukraine has dominated headlines since Russia invaded in February 2022.

So how can we understand how economic pressures can affect countries during wartime?

Based in the Department of Economics, the centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) conducts policy-driven research informed by history, culture and behaviour, moving beyond traditional measures of economic success to consider broader influences on global prosperity. 

The war in Ukraine

On the CAGE website, you can see former CAGE Impact Director Professor Mark Harrison explain the West's strategy for using economic sanctions against Russia, and current CAGE Impact Director Professor Dennis Novy discusses the economic pressures on Russia, drawing on lessons from history during the Second World War.

View the videos

The truth about our lockdown diets

Fruit and vegetables

I was interested to learn that new research led by the Department of Economics has shed light on how eating and exercise habits changed during lockdown – or, in fact, how they changed a lot less than people believe.

Professor Thijs van Rens and colleagues surveyed just over 1,000 West Midlands residents in May 2020, when activities outside the home were severely restricted, and again in September 2020 when rules were relaxed.

His research has revealed something we may not have expected.

Professor van Rens explains: “There has been widespread speculation that diets became less healthy during lockdown, but we discovered that overall, people’s diets changed very little. If anything, people ate slightly more fruit and veg during lockdown than afterwards.

“The only group which significantly changed their eating habits were women who would otherwise have been commuting over an hour a day. We speculate that replacing the commute with working from home enabled this group to commit time and energy to healthier meals.”

How arts and culture can inform policing

A new report published by Professor Jackie Hodgson and Dr Rachel Lewis (School of Law) examines how arts and culture can be used to inform both policing and social improvement priorities, as well as the wider potential of arts and culture as a means for police to connect with seldom-heard communities.

The researchers conducted interviews and focus groups to produce this independent evaluation of the policing approach for Coventry City of Culture.

The report presents findings and explores the benefits and challenges afforded by the WMP-Trust partnership. It also considers the achievements, impacts, benefits and challenges of police-community engagement through arts and culture.

Science, Engineering & Medicine

New flooring system could help the environment

Professor Stephen Hicks

Congratulations to Professor Stephen Hicks from the School of Engineering. He’s recently secured a £93,000 Forestry Commission Grant to develop a testing programme of a new composite steel and CLT flooring system.

As I’m sure many of you will agree, flooring is something we take for granted. And I certainly never thought of floors in buildings being detrimental to the environment. But, replacing traditional concrete floor systems with Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels can help reduce the carbon in the floor system and the structure itself.

Stephen, who is working with international structural engineers WSP, explains: “Unlike recent building projects using CLT, the steel beams within the new floor system have been designed to act compositely with CLT floor panels to achieve around a 40% saving in steel weight together with a saving in embodied carbon of nearly 25% compared to traditional composite steel and concrete floors.”

The grant will allow the researchers to perform a series of tests investigating the connection between steel beams and CLT panels, working up to a larger-scale experiment replicating a beam within a typical office building.

Championing British grown fruit and vegetables can boost the economy and support the environment

A key topic dominating the UK news in recent weeks is the marked shortage of fruit and vegetables in supermarkets. As many diets shift to plant-based foods and countries struggle with food production, there's a need for increased production and resilience in UK agriculture.

To help address this problem, a new Green Paper entitled ‘Growing British’ is set to shape national strategy on promoting fresh produce grown in the UK. And research from Warwick Crop Centre research lies at its heart.

The paper (drafted by Alex Kelly, Professor Richard Napier and Professor Rosemary Collier) backs a 30% increase in UK consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables by 2032. It revealed that if even half of this was grown in Britain it would add an extra £0.5 billion to the UK economy per year, alongside reaping environmental and nutritional benefits.

The paper has sparked media interest, with Professor Richard Napier speaking about it on Farming Today (BBC Radio 4) earlier this month in light of the current food shortages.

Warwick to host UK’s most powerful Nuclear Magnetic Resonance instrument

I was delighted to learn that a consortium led by Warwick has been awarded £17M to procure the UK’s most powerful Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) instrument at 1.2 GHz.

An NMR instrument allows the molecular structure of a material to be analysed by observing and measuring the interaction of nuclear spins when placed in a powerful magnetic field.

The Warwick based 1.2 GHz NMR system will operate as a national research facility allowing UK researchers to help address issues of global significance. Scientists from around the country will be able to use the facility. It will be one of only seven 1.2 GHz magnets in the world, and the most powerful of its kind in the UK!

Steven Brown with the existing 1GHz MCR magnet

It will be housed in a new building and will build upon current capability of 1.0 GHz at our UK High-Field Solid-State NMR National Research Facility. 

Congratulations to Professor Steven Brown (pictured) and his team.

Faculty of Arts

Disability and contemporary dance in Africa

Congratulations to Professor Yvette Hutchison from SCAPVC who has been awarded a grant from the AHRC’s ‘International Networks for Disability-Inclusive Global Development’ funding call for her project entitled ‘Encountering disability through contemporary dance in Africa.’

The project, in collaboration with the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa, will look at how dance can reveal the extent and manner in which citizenship in Africa continues to be socially constructed.

This will include how disabled dance companies and choreographers in Africa have adapted their choreographies to different bodies, integrating specifically related disability issues into performances that address wider, everyday issues.

The project will run for two years from February 2024

Unsung Heroes
Unsung Hero Gary Grant

The School of Life Sciences (SLS) has experienced a lengthy period of challenges with its Phytobiology building in recent months – including repeated equipment failures and extreme impact from weather conditions.

So, this edition’s Unsung Hero accolade goes to someone who has shown tireless commitment to resolve these problems and mitigate their impact on research. Gary Grant, a horticultural technician for more than 20 years, has been providing excellent service to plant research and has been nominated for this year’s PAPIN prize*.

His recent successes have included dealing with the failure of the chiller, stopping leaks and averting other potential crises – all on top of his day-to-day tasks!

Research staff depend on his extensive knowledge and valuable input to ensure successful outcomes.

I’d like to wish Gary the best of luck with his PAPIN Prize nomination this year.

*Papin Prizes recognise the invaluable role played by technicians in higher education and research. This year, they will be announced on July 4th at the UK Higher Education Technicians Summit (HETS), held right here on Campus at the Oculus.

A decorative banner in black and yellow with the words Fund your research

New funding opportunities

I wanted to make colleagues aware of the extensive range of funding available to Warwick researchers to accelerate the impact of research.

R&IS has launched a new Research Funding page which brings together internal funding opportunities for both research and impact, and provides useful links and advice for external funding opportunities.