University of Leicester announces four new 'beacons of excellence' research institutes

Posted by ap507 at Jun 30, 2016 12:05 AM |
New multidisciplinary centres informed by transformative way Leicester worked on Richard III – and inspired by incredible teamwork that took Leicester City to Premier League triumph

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 30 June

‘We want teamwork across disciplines to be the norm for the way we do things’

-     Professor Paul Boyle, University of Leicester

  • Release issued to local media

Images of Professor Iain Gillespie and Professor Paul Monks available to download at:

The University of Leicester has announced it is establishing four new research institutes – building on the extraordinary success of the multidisciplinary work on Richard III and inspired by the incredible teamwork that took Leicester City to their Premier League triumph.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise Professor Iain Gillespie said: “Looking at a number of things that worked well with Richard III –very focussed, a lot of internal and external interest, rapid decision making: all of these things are fantastic.

“But what we need to be able to do is provide an environment where that is the norm, rather than an exception. With Richard III we got it right and it worked brilliantly well. But what we need to ensure is that we have the conditions that encourage that type of multidisciplinary, challenge driven research, to flourish.”

The new institutes are an integral part of the Discovery-led Research strand of the University’s Strategic Plan, unveiled in September last year by President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle.

The four interdisciplinary institutes will build on Leicester’s established strengths in:

Professor Paul Monks, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Leicester, who worked on the development of the institutes, said:  “We want ambitious, agile and focused research to be the norm for the way we do things. Richard III shows you how to do excellence with impact. But my feeling is that it’s fairly unique. The challenge for these institutes is to transcend individual projects and truly bring together critical mass that gives us real world answers.”

“The institutes will help us attract and retain research stars, have a strong entrepreneurial and public impact focus and seek to attract new research funding, despite the challenges of Brexit.  The plan is to strengthen the culture within the University where research excellence thrives and where the research institutes become ‘beacons of excellence’ – shining a light on world-class research at Leicester.”

The potential local impact of the institutes is exemplified by proposals for the Leicester Precision Medicine Institute, a joint project between the University of Leicester and Leicester University Hospitals NHS Trust.  This will develop tailored approaches to treating patients that recognise them much more as individuals, with all their attendant specific needs.

Iain Gillespie said: “The real opportunity for us in Leicester is for the University and Trust to work in partnership to develop diagnostics and treatments that suit the local population we serve. Leicester is amongst the most ethnically diverse populations in the UK and unlike London, where the population is often transient, ours is very stable. That gives us both an opportunity and a responsibility come up with health solutions that work for the genetic and cultural mix of people around us – not just such homogenised norm. And that also gives us a fantastic opportunity to work with countries overseas with similar population diversity to develop treatments that could be used around the world.

Professor Monks and Gillespie said the research institutes would also offer benefits for students as they would expose them to the latest cutting edge developments. They added that other research institutes were already in the pipeline and could be announced in a second tranche around 2017.

President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle said: “Our commitment to discovery is all about imaginative new thinking and these institutes will underpin fundamental advances in our understanding of the world around us.  They are also intended to be focal points for global research conversations.

“The institutes will bring together colleagues from across the university to grapple with fundamental questions that arise at the intersection of different disciplines. This is all part of our commitment to pioneer a distinctive elite of research-intensive institutions.”

The research institutes are being launched at an event at the University of Leicester today (Thursday 30 June).



Leicester Precision Medicine Institute

The Leicester Precision Medicine Institute is one of four flagship interdisciplinary Research Institutes that the University has launched as part its strategic vision.

Future treatment of human disease will increasingly move from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to one of tailoring the treatment to the individual patient. Considering disease at a personal level allows for accurate identification of risk, and for tailored (or precision) therapies where patient-specific responses are monitored and treatments refined to deliver optimal efficacy with minimal toxicity or adverse reaction.

With the strapline ‘Improving Healthcare in an Ethnically Diverse Population’ the Leicester Precision Medicine Institute will coalesce and align the research missions of the university and the NHS in Leicester. This Centre of Excellence will develop, evaluate, and implement treatments based on individual patient differences, to provide better healthcare that recognises the ethnic diversity of our population.

Leicester Institute for Structural and Chemical Biology

The Institute of Structural and Chemical Biology will be built upon the widely recognized success of structural and chemical biology at Leicester. Through strengthening cross-college interactions as well as embracing new cutting edge technologies and novel chemical biology approaches we will maximize our future success and impact. Establishing an Institute will also allow this highly successful community to significantly expand their interactions across the University. Many strategically important research areas will benefit, including the CRUK Cancer Centre and the Precision Medicine Institute.

The Institute will encompass four main strands of research activity:

  • Fundamental research into understanding the molecular assemblies that carry out the processes of life.
  • Using structural biology to inform the discovery of novel drugs and therapeutics.
  • Exploiting highly sensitive single molecule techniques to understand the complexities of dynamic biological processes
  • Development of chemical probes, tools and libraries to modulate protein function

To ensure the success of the new Institute the University is investing in eight new posts as well as a PhD and Fellowship programme and capital investment in new technologies.

We expect that the Institute will reinforce and enhance the visibility of Leicester in this area and build upon our national and international reputation for excellence in structural and chemical biology.

The Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation

As part of its strategic vision, the University of Leicester will bring all its space research and related activities under a single Institute for Space and Earth Observation, focussing on Space/EO missions and instruments and the exploitation of these. To be located on the planned National Space Park,  the Institute will develop alongside a range of industrial partners to develop new approaches to innovation in space research and make a major contribution to economic growth, particularly in the space applications landscape.

Space has been identified by the Government as one of the eight great technologies and is seen as cross-cutting enabler of growth. The Space Innovation and Growth Strategy study identified Space as a growth market with the target of £40 billion by 2030, 10% of world market. This growth needs to be underwritten by research and the timely creation of the Leicester Institute of Space and Earth Observation Institute will support the Government’s aspirations for the space sector.

CAMEo Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies

The aim of CAMEo is to undertake high-quality theoretical, empirical and applied research into the productive dynamics of the cultural and creative industries, media and the arts.

CAMEo draws on critical social science, arts and humanities to provide new understandings of cultural work, the ‘creative economy’, media, arts and cultural policy, consumer culture dynamics, and the mediation and representation of cultural and economic life. We are especially interested in exploring the innovative ways in which cultural and media economies are being described, understood, measured, valued, represented and experienced.

CAMEo aims to bring together interdisciplinary academic expertise from across the University of Leicester, and to engage with the practices and policy concerns of different local, national and international publics. Currently we are developing our range of existing and new projects – and invite further conversations, collaborations and partnerships around our key themes and interests.

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