UCDs new strategy for innovation

Jana Joha outlines UCD’s new strategy for innovation and the importance of emphasizing progression to help advance scientific communities

UCD have just launched ‘Shaping the Future’, a new strategy for research, innovation and impact until 2024. The launching of ‘Shaping the Future’ follows on from another strategy for 2020-2024 called ‘Rising to the Future’ launched by Professor Andrew J. Deeks, President of UCD. ‘Rising to the Future’ is based around four main themes: Creating a sustainable global society, Building a healthy world, Empowering humanity, and Transforming through digital technology. The main objective of ‘Shaping the Future’ is to increase the quality, quantity and impact of UCD’s research and innovation in the hopes of making a real change both nationally and globally. Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research and Innovation and Impact explained that “This strategy outlines how UCD will build on our success to date in order to produce excellent and impactful research innovation that makes a real difference in areas of national and global need.”. 

“This new strategy will emphasise excellence and impact with the aim of investing in people and providing a culture and environment that supports them and allows them to achieve. "

This new strategy will emphasise excellence and impact with the aim of investing in people and providing a culture and environment that supports them and allows them to achieve. Under this strategy, excellence will be at the core of all research, scholarship and innovation in UCD. This will be achieved in four main ways: promoting excellence within and across disciplines, seeking out and developing partnerships with international research and industry leaders, building on a foundation of demonstrable excellence and by growing and showcasing areas of strength, scale and global relevance. UCD promises to ensure that their understanding of excellence across all disciplines reflects best international practise and that it is supported and encouraged within the university. They aim to support greater international collaboration as an institution but also at the level of individual researchers and research groups. They also aim to collaborate and partner with industry leaders, smaller ambitious companies, government bodies, entrepreneurs and investors as well as cultural and societal organisations that share in UCD’s commitment to research and excellence. 

By expanding their network of external collaborators, advisors and investors to identify and support breakthrough innovation projects they hope to build on their foundation of demonstrable excellence. They plan to expand their academic staff through new recruitment mechanisms with the goal to increase and showcase the areas of strength, scale and global relevance. Through these steps and actions, UCD will put an emphasis on excellence which will help achieve the main objective of increasing quality, quantity and impact of UCD’s research, scholarship and innovation. Excellence will be measured by the success of their spin-outs and spin-ins attracting investment and scaling, in how well innovative products and services created by UCD expertise and inventions are adopted, and in the value they bring to public policy and professional practise. 

“I look forward to continuing to work with the UCD research and innovation community as we look to building a brighter future together” - Harris TD. 

The strategy’s second emphasis is on impact. UCD promises to deliver real impact through research and innovation in various different sectors including culture, society, the economy, public policy, health and the environment. They hope to do this in four main ways: by supporting recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, investing in major initiatives and facilities, leading partnerships to achieve breakthrough impact and to deliver real benefits to students. Researchers and innovators in UCD have made impactful contributions towards helping us fight against COVID-19. Examples include Dr Colin Keogh, a bray engineer who was recently awarded the Irish Research Council Impact award for his response to the global ventilator shortage and Dr Denis Shields, professor of clinical bioinformatics, who was part of an international team of scientists who helped pave the way for the development of anti-Covid drugs. Their work has contributed to our fight against Covid and through this new strategy UCD hope to further support and continue important and impactful research and innovation. Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science noted that “During the last year UCD researchers across many disciplines have demonstrated the importance of research and scientific evidence in tackling the coronavirus pandemic”.

However, another main aim of this strategy is to invest in people while also providing a culture and environment that supports them. UCD believes that excellence and impact can be achieved through supporting faculty, researchers and professional support staff and in cultivating a culture and environment that values people and their work. Under this new strategy equality, diversity and inclusion will be at the heart of everything they do. Faculty, researchers and support staff will benefit from development programmes and will be supported to focus on excellence through UCD’s systems of workload allocation, sabbaticals and academic recognition. Through their practises and policies they promise to continue to build a positive and proactive culture of integrity, dignity and respect in research and to deliver training and supports that will exemplify best practise and enable success. Not only will this garner a culture and environment of excellence and impact nationally, internationally UCD also hope to continue working with organisations such as Universitas 21, the Worldwide Universities Network and CESAER as well as Horizon Europe and the European Union to further grow their international success in research and innovation. 

This strategy with its bold ambitions comes at a time of great uncertainty and crisis. Now more than ever we need more research and innovation to get us through this pandemic as well as address global issues and problems that we face now and will face in the near future. ‘Rising to the Future’ and ‘Shaping the Future’ outline how UCD plans to rise to this challenge.  Feely explained that “the period of this strategy will be one of great disruption, but we can act to shape the future through the excellent and impactful work of UCD’s vibrant research and innovation community.”. 

Climate change, the pandemic, sustainable energy, habitat loss and ageing are all global problems that need solving. If we ever hope to find solutions it is important that research and innovation is prioritised and appreciated. The future of science depends on it. Without funding, support or strategic planning we may never be able to create new technologies, new methods or new inventions to improve our quality of life and help solve global issues. Not only do we benefit but future generations will too, and perhaps one day thank us for it. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that we continue to support and nurture research and innovation so that we all together can ‘shape the future’ for the better. “I look forward to continuing to work with the UCD research and innovation community as we look to building a brighter future together” - Harris TD.