INNOVATION STRATEGY 2021-26
Delivering a holistic approach to research, enterprise and engagement
Delivering a holistic approach to research, enterprise and engagement
From its inception as a royal institute in 1896, through the period as College of Advanced Technology during the post-war period, to its university charter status in 1967, the University of Salford has always been a place where original research is combined with applications for industry. Today this is embodied in our strategic commitment to industry collaboration.
Whilst the industrial sectors we serve today are transformed from those of the late nineteenth century, the need for greater innovation across the private, public, and social sectors remain. At Salford we recognise that innovation involves the creation of new knowledge through fundamental research and the conversion of this into intellectual property, spinouts, applied research, knowledge exchange and technology transfer, industrial PhDs, and consultancy to facilitate its adoption by industrial partners. But to be truly transformative for the wider economy this needs to be diffused and embedded within organisations via Continuing Professional Development (CPD), higher technical skills development, student placements, and apprenticeships. We see these things as an innovation continuum in which new knowledge is created and applied to provide solutions to real world challenges, whilst informing our learning and teaching curriculum. It is this holistic and integrated approach that is Salford’s unique contribution to the nation’s research and development challenges.
The University of Salford’s commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) underpins our innovation strategy. We believe that EDI brings innovation through incorporating multiple perspectives. As a hive for innovation, we recognise that EDI is one of our critical tools to success.
As an open and engaging institute, we embrace the need to build relationships that enable our academics and technicians, and employees from industrial and other partners to collaborate, develop and deliver new forms of knowledge and innovation. These networks are crucial to transforming the UK economic performance and embracing the opportunities presented by the emerging technologies and inventions of today and tomorrow. Over the next 5-10 years our partnerships will be strengthened, and our networks grown through the substantial investment in the Innovation District and more broadly through the Crescent Masterplan.
We are proud of our city and community, and we are committed to helping organisations across Salford, Greater Manchester, the North West, and the UK, improve their performance and prepare for the future. Often this will be through strategic connections and direct transfer of know-how, but we accept that knowledge creation knows no boundaries and to best serve our city-region and the North West we need to be embedded in research and enterprise networks with throughout the UK and across the world. This helps us develop both new knowledge
and new opportunities. The most successful innovative nations combine intense local activity with extensive international collaboration, and we embrace this way of working at Salford.
Across the university there is research and enterprise of the highest quality that is rightly held in high global esteem. We are committed to enhancing our centres of excellence today, whilst we develop our future leading areas of tomorrow. This involves investing in both our people and our facilities to enable them to excel and deliver on our commitment to be an innovation focused university.
Some of the technologies of the future are already with us, not least robotics, digital and smart living. These enabling technologies will both develop new types of businesses and disciplines, whilst transforming existing organisations and areas of research and methodologies. At Salford we will continue to explore how these, and other technologies and approaches help us address the global challenges of productivity, healthy living, sustainable environments, and creative and resilient communities.
This strategy outlines our focus for the next five years as we help the City of Salford, Greater Manchester, the North West, and the UK emerge from the pandemic. We will play our part in building a better, more innovative Britain, generating opportunities, and driving prosperity for all.
We will be recognised as a global leader of challenge-led research and solutions-focussed enterprise, delivering responsible innovation for economic, environmental, and social impact.
Capitalising on our key areas of strength in research, enterprise, and education, we will work in partnership to address the needs of local, regional, national, and global stakeholders.
/ Co-creation: we design and deliver our research projects and enterprise services with partners from business, the public sector, and communities;
/ Community: we empower and support our staff and students to undertake world leading research and develop as creative problem-solvers and entrepreneurs;
/ Inclusivity: we seek to improve the diversity of our research and enterprise community and the opportunities for all to succeed so that we represent the communities we serve;
/ Integrity: we maintain the highest standards of ethics and integrity;
/ Openness: we work collaboratively, openly, and transparently, sharing our findings across the research lifecycle to maximise the use and impact of all outputs from research.
Our four themes capture the breadth of our expertise and how we influence the world: using technology to advance manufacturing and business capabilities in a socially and environmentally responsible manner; improving health outcomes; designing sustainable solutions for urban environments and protecting nature; and improving the way society works for all. Goal One embodies our ambition as an institution to make a step-change in our capabilities, improving our ability to respond to these global social challenges.
Over the next 5 years we will invest strategically in key areas within these themes to build capacity; future
proof our activities; create further opportunities to work in partnership with external stakeholders; build internal interdisciplinary communities; and position us for external funding. Growing our income will aid the financial sustainability of the University and support improved performance in future Research Excellence Framework (REF) and Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) assessments, boosting our reputation on the national and international stage. In the near term we will specifically seek opportunities to support the post-COVID economic recovery within our remit, using our expertise and world-leading facilities in new and creative ways to help industry and other partners recover and realise their full potential to grow.
From its inception Salford has been a university committed to the production of foundational research and its application through partnership working. Our research and enterprise success is dependent upon the success of our academics and postgraduate researchers (PGRs) working in productive partnerships with industry, public organisations and the third sector to apply our expertise to real-world challenges and co-create solutions. Our five priorities, which will enable us to achieve our goals, reflect this. Goal Two represents our commitment to work as valued partners with external organisations; providing holistic solutions to address their challenges.
As an anchor institution within the region, we will build on our partnerships with Salford City Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and the
other Greater Manchester (GM) Universities to work together to identify and address local issues; positioning ourselves to take advantage of the levelling up agenda and new local funding streams.
Strengthening our partnerships will support income growth from direct investment through commercial enterprise activities; licensing; investment in our spinouts; funding of research and PGRs; and our infrastructure. In addition to the direct investment in the University’s research and enterprise endeavours, through their support, our partners can help us to secure new investment, creating growth in our research and enterprise activities. Professional relationship management of partners with multiple touch points within the University and mutually aligned interests will be key to the creation of genuine longterm strategic partnerships.
We define ‘impact’ in the broadest sense, encompassing positive benefits for academic research, business, and wider society, across any type and size of organisation, and for individuals and communities at a local, national, or international level. Our REF2021 impact case studies demonstrate how our on-going research, knowledge exchange and engagement activities have contributed to substantial economic growth, social, and environmental benefits. Through technology and digital innovation, we have designed better healthcare devices and improved mechanisms of care within the NHS, contributed to the decarbonisation agenda and developed systems that support government responses to natural disasters overseas. We have also leveraged our expertise and networks to influence UK and EU policy to protect the environment and improve support systems and opportunities for some of society’s most vulnerable groups.
Goal Three demonstrates our commitment to maximising the benefits to society from our collective research and enterprise activities, whether working with an individual business or organisation, with an industry sector, or acting as a driver of productivity and economic growth on a regional scale. We will continue to develop and support existing impact streams leading from our research and knowledge exchange ensuring our past achievements lead to even greater success in future. We will also expand our existing impact framework to enterprise and engagement activity for effective monitoring and management, ensuring measurable added value to partners and wider society.
Emerging from consultation with Schools during the development of the previous Research and Knowledge Exchange strategy, our four themes represent our main areas of activity and the nature of the way in which our institution collectively influences and benefits society. These themes of Productivity, Healthy Living, Sustainable Environments, and Creative and Resilient Communities are ever more relevant to society and therefore will be retained and developed further. At the present time the UK and wider global community face numerous societal challenges. Economies must respond to the fallout from the pandemic and build back to ensure a sustainable future, while on a national level there is a need to address slow growth in productivity, especially in manufacturing. The pandemic has also exacerbated existing social inequalities and our expertise at reaching marginalised communities is needed more than ever at this time. Alongside COVID-19, an ageing population places strain on health systems, therefore new products and services are required for the management of long-term health conditions. Action on climate change is imperative and we must contribute to achieving Net Zero targets to reduce and prevent irreversible damage to our planet.
Underpinning these themes, we have focussed on three enabling technologies to build on our existing capabilities, aligned to areas of external opportunity and stakeholder needs: Robotics, Digital, and Smart Living. Our focus on technology links to our past as an institution, from our beginnings as the Royal Technical Institute in 1896, and to our present and future as it drives so much
of what is possible for the future of society. It affects all areas of life and must be developed and used ethically and responsibly to ensure it generates positive outcomes for people and the environment. To lead as responsible innovators, we must continue to invest in the best facilities and focus on the place of technology in our world.
Since the publication of the previous strategy, we have consolidated our efforts on the support of four challenge themes and invested in infrastructure to further our mission in these key areas. Our approach now is to embed our themes as meaningful and perceptible within our culture and to use them to promote our activities and in discussions with external partners to communicate our areas of expertise and priorities.
Our themes, supported by the enabling technologies, will be used as mechanisms to foster interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary working. They will not be considered as groups in which individuals and teams will be assigned a home, as it is expected that any individual could contribute to multiple themes, and it is this way of working that will be particularly encouraged. Led by external opportunities, our themes will be used to develop our culture and bring people together, creating excitement and inspiration around the possibilities of addressing these challenges in new ways with others who bring complementary skills and are driven to achieve the same goals. Our enabling technologies will support all themes, ensuring that staff and researchers with expertise in technology and underpinning approaches can support and interact with others across different disciplines as we seek to combine knowledge and skills in new ways to generate new avenues of inquiry and innovation.
To achieve our goals, we will focus activity on five priority areas:
Within our four themes we are already seeing returns on our investment and external recognition as a result of our efforts. Our past investment in areas of strength has brought success particularly in Acoustics (illustrated by £1.8m of commercial income over 4 years) and Human Movement & Rehabilitation (evidenced by the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Prosthetics and Orthotics) and under this strategy this will be continued through the designation of these as our areas of Strategic Global Leadership (SGL). These are areas where we have unique capabilities and established expertise which are strongly aligned with external need.
More recently our focus on investment in new infrastructures has resulted in success for Robotics (North of England Robotics Innovation Centre - NERIC), and the Sustainable Environments theme (Energy House 2.0, IGNITION Nature Based Solutions Living Lab). Within this strategy period we will focus on developing a pipeline of Emerging Areas of Global Leadership and Excellence (EAGLEs), such as these examples, based on robust evidence of capability, critical mass, and external opportunity. Through supporting these areas, we can
capitalise on their successes and create further critical mass.
To continue to drive our ambitions, over the next planning period we will focus on:
/ Securing investment and growth in identified areas of Strategic Global Leadership (SGL): Acoustics, where a new stateof-the-art facility is planned within the Innovation District; and Human Movement & Rehabilitation, which is prioritised for support in the next phase of the Campus Masterplan. Leveraging our own strategic investment in these areas of evidence-based strength will allow them to fulfil their potential and secure our continued position as leaders in these two fields;
/ Undertaking assessment to determine Emerging Areas of Global Leadership and Excellence (EAGLEs). The development and investment in EAGLEs, will form the next generation of areas of Strategic Global Leadership and will ensure we achieve success for both research and enterprise activities;
/ Supporting robust planning for SGL areas and EAGLEs including regular review of achievements against KPIs and return on investment against plans. Explore and invest in the links between research and enterprise activities;
/ Continued support of the existing investment in Energy House 2.0 and Robotics to ensure we maximise their full potential to achieve global recognition. In addition, investigating the support needs for, and development of a collective vision around, public health and long-term conditions; welfare, justice, and inclusion; and digital technology for health and culture. We also need to ensure we maximise the potential from emerging activities around SME entrepreneurship and digital transformation, and Studio Salford to generate profit and lead to future opportunities;
/ Exploring opportunities to develop a physical and virtual nexus for innovation activity to develop partnerships around our existing SGL areas and future areas (EAGLEs) to be based within the Crescent Innovation District. Continue to support existing physical spaces for collaboration and co-creation, for example, our enabling technologies for ‘Digital’, through supporting proposals to relocate existing facilities (Octave and THINKlab) to new premises as part of the Masterplan;
/ External positioning of the University in areas of strength, focussing on our USPs and external priorities. Identified areas include Green Recovery, where we have a unique offer in an
area aligned to UK Government priority which could position us to attract additional industry support.
Our people remain at the heart of what we do, and we will continue our commitment to developing creative research and enterprise leaders and nurturing talent at all career stages. Through our increased focus on partnership working, we will support our staff and PGRs to develop a greater understanding of the needs within their sectors and where their expertise can contribute to achieving shared goals. This will give our students the skills to innovate and problem solve and provide the connections to employers that enable them to develop their careers and realise their potential.
We will provide clear routes for success whether focussed on research, enterprise, or both. This will be realised through a connected system of training, resourcing, reward and recognition, linked to the Salford Academic Career pathways for Research and for Enterprise. To fully embed the Salford Academic in everyday working practices, the 3-year research plans will be transitioned to business as usual, to facilitate supportive conversations around progress against the pathway descriptors for research active
staff with their line managers and mentors. The implementation of a Research Information System in late 2022/early 2023 will further assist these activities, providing a centralised, single source of research data and ensuring transparency and accessibility for all involved with workload decision making.
Developing the next generation of research and enterprise leaders will be through alignment with our areas of Strategic Global Leadership and EAGLEs. We will seek to grow our cohorts in these areas, providing innovative and flexible delivery, and using new models as an opportunity to grow our international relationships. Our PhD programmes will be increasingly connected with external partners as we invest in industry-sponsored projects and look to formalise the involvement of external advisors in a greater proportion of our PhD programmes. This will provide candidates with valuable skills and training that aid their employment and serve to differentiate our offer in the market.
Over the next 5 years we will focus on the following:
/ Developing and embedding Salford Academic Pathways for Research and Enterprise in academic working life and connecting these to recruitment, recognition and progression;
/ Building on the 3-year research plans produced as part of the Significant Responsibility for Research (SRR) process undertaken in preparation for
REF2021 to identify and support current and future leaders aligned to areas of SGL and EAGLEs. This will ensure alignment between our areas of strategic investment and the development and support of those who will bring this investment to life;
/ Designing an exemplary training programme for the development of entrepreneurial and knowledge exchange skills for both staff and PGRs to enable them to see the potential commercial and translational opportunities for their research. Connecting research students with existing business start-up and enterprise skills support (Careers & Enterprise and Launch incubator) to improve employability;
/ We will seek not only an increase in our numbers, but also ensure we have the right quality of applicants to undertake PhDs and provide them with an excellent training experience using a cohort-based approach. We will investigate new models of supporting PGRs to address the needs of employers, including the Graduate Enterprise Scheme model being piloted within Acoustics. These mechanisms will support our commitment to the employability for all PGRs and timely completion rates.
We endeavour to create a culture which attracts and retains the best people and promotes open and responsible research and innovation. We will encourage and reward ambition, inclusivity, leadership, and collaboration. Working across disciplines is essential to address the complex technical, social, and environmental challenges of our time. Therefore, we will work to ensure our four themes become tangible within our culture to build communities and improve the opportunities for individuals to find internal collaborators and work in an interdisciplinary way.
We will develop our culture around knowledge exchange and enterprise, beginning by creating space for conversations around what enterprise means and the opportunities that exist within each school to undertake this work. This will help those interested see where their specific expertise and experience aligns to the needs and goals of their school and the University.
Central to support for our people, is our commitment to diversity and inclusion. As we seek to create, innovate, impact positively on the world, and inspire the next generation, we must seek out and value the unique lived experience that individuals with diverse characteristics bring to teaching, research, enterprise, and engagement. This will ensure that as an institution we have a community
with the right skills, experience, and insight to address current and future challenges facing our society.
Our goal, to be realised by the next REF assessment, is to increase diversity within our academic and researcher communities. This will result in a greater proportion of staff with protected characteristics returned to the next REF. Specifically, this will require our REF submission to be 48% female (up from 40% in REF2021) to match the eligible staff population. Within our REF2021 REF-eligible population, 13% were from a BAME background and 17% of our submission comprised BAME colleagues. However, our representation of BAME staff remains low, (particularly so for staff who identify as both female and BAME), compared with an undergraduate population where 31% identify as BAME. We commit to a greater focus on diversity across all protected characteristics and will monitor intersectionality where data is available to support this, as we are mindful that studying characteristics separately does not show the whole picture.
To enable us to excel in research with integrity and real-world impact, where local and global communities can freely and rapidly access and build on our researchers’ work, we will focus on embedding open research practices throughout the research lifecycle. We have laid a strong foundation in terms of open access publications, achieving over 95% compliance within our REF2021 submission, and have an established open data infrastructure
and examples of excellent practice in open research dissemination. Now, if we are to build openness into the heart of our culture, we need not only to respond to the changing landscape of research funder policies, but also to step beyond policy compliance, widening our scope to embed ‘open’ as the default throughout the research lifecycle. The research outputs of all researchers, in all formats and across disciplines, will therefore be made openly available as the default wherever possible and planned for from the start of a project, involving increased collaboration and usage of open content to build a truly open, engaged and connected culture.
Our priorities for the next 5 years include:
/ Empowering our people to succeed by developing our culture around knowledge exchange and enterprise through facilitating conversations and raising the profile of this activity and develop our capacity. This will include the consideration of incentivisation;
/ Improve the ability for our staff and PGRs to connect with those working in complementary areas to support the development of interdisciplinary projects in alignment to our challenge-led themes;
/ Formalising our mentoring systems within schools to ensure staff are effectively supported to progress along the research and enterprise pathways;
/ Reviewing how we reward and recognise contributions and success, with a focus on increasing recognition for leadership behaviours and contributions towards collaborative, community building activities;
/ Supporting diversity in our academic and PGR community through targeting support to underrepresented groups and those with protected characteristics. This initially includes a focus on those who have experienced significant negative impacts on their careers as a result of COVID-19 and also ensuring there is consistent support for staff returning from an extended period of leave with provision of resource to re-start activities. We will also focus on building the talent pipeline to create clear pathways for individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, paying attention to intersectionality, to support progression from UG/PGT levels into PhD study. This will include the exploration of scholarships as a way to encourage participation;
/ Shifting our culture towards open access as the default through training around sharing of research outputs and data, so that the possibilities for the use of our ideas and discoveries are maximised.
Salford produces excellent discovery research, and we are committed to working with industry and other stakeholders to convert this into applicable products and services and to delivering the skills and trained workforce needed to diffuse innovation into their operations. As an industry-focussed university, we have a unique offer with a range of ‘products’ which can be tailored to address their individual challenges and needs. This includes creating new CPD offerings in response to identified skills gaps to expand our support for life-long learning and economic growth. By understanding the challenges and needs of our partners and providing the right solutions we will encourage repeat business through recognition of value they gain from working with Salford.
The development of the Innovation District, within the Campus Masterplan, offers a new way to engage with our long-standing partners and to develop and attract new partners. It is essential that we adopt a new approach to managing our key relationships to both broaden and deepen our collaborations and to pursue and co-develop areas of mutual interest which maximise the benefits to both the University and the partner.
A key aim for our approach to partnership working is to ensure
benefits and opportunities are created for students to enhance employability and provide them with insight and inspiration for their future careers. Through leveraging our extensive network of external partners, we will look for opportunities to connect innovation activities with the student experience. This will support the University’s commitment to providing each student with a transferable portfolio of relevant skills, behaviours, and work experience, ensuring they leave Salford as highly employable graduates.
Our key priorities over the next 5 years:
/ Develop a framework for business engagement which makes it easier than ever before for industry to work with the University and help them innovate and grow. Ensure that this is joined to the goals and actions of the Employability strategy so that we are speaking to employers with a single voice. Provide clear messaging on our ‘products’ (including research, consultancy, licensing, employment of our students, and CPD) and an underpinning connected structure of joined up support. This will seamlessly manage their interactions with different functions within the University, providing the most appropriate contacts to manage their needs;
/ In addition to exploring enterprise opportunities, we will seek deeper engagement with our partners in research bids, PhD projects and placements for student employability opportunities. This includes utilisation of Salford Professional Development’s (SPD) conferences and delegation to provide a platform to showcase the University of Salford’s research and innovation activities, and developing new opportunities for student recruitment through Unitemps;
/ Exploitation of our research findings to drive IP and commercialisation income and other opportunities to create positive economic and social impact;
/ Identify, develop, and proactively manage a number of strategic partners for each school and the University to broaden and deepen our existing and future relationships;
/ As one of the first universities to receive the Small Business Charter Mark, build on our longstanding success of embedding capability within SMEs, and increase our engagement and tailor our support contributing to sustainable economic recovery in response to the build back better plan;
/ Work with partners who share our values, through embedding our existing partnerships due diligence process into all research and enterprise activities.
As a signatory to the Civic Universities Agreement, we are demonstrating our commitment to our city and region through expanding our vision around impact to incorporate a clear civic mission. This will ensure we grow the social and economic impact resulting from our research, enterprise, and engagement activities on our local area.
Though Salford as an area has seen investment in recent years for business, infrastructure, and residential development, on our doorstep there are still neighbourhoods with high levels of deprivation. We are committed to further developing our role as an anchor institution, contributing to placemaking in the City of Salford and improving the way we serve the communities of GM. Through this innovation strategy we will continue to identify how our research, enterprise and engagement are leading to positive change and provide the necessary support to drive this forward in alignment to our themes and areas of SGL. To realise
this, we will seek to strengthen our relationships with key public and third sector organisations with whom we are connected through multiple activities and networks, and together we will be more effective at responding to the needs of the communities of GM.
Recent polling by Public First determined that of over 1000 GM residents, 59% had never visited one of the GM universities. Over two thirds of these indicated that the reason they had not been to a campus was either they were not aware universities were open to the public or thought that there is nothing universities offer that is of interest. Every year our University welcomes thousands of people on to campus to inform and inspire through educational and cultural experiences. As we renew our focus on our local community, we will take this opportunity to assess our public offering and its beneficiaries. As part of expanding our focus on local impact we will build on established networks within the city, such as the Salford Culture and Place partnership, to reach out to different communities, engaging in different ways and within different spaces, to listen and understand needs and co-create activities and events to successfully address these. We will be particularly mindful of engagement with groups with protected characteristics, building on previous engagement to strengthen links and support inclusion and social cohesion in our local area.
In line with our value of openness we will seek to develop and expand our online presence, ensuring our knowledge is shared widely, influencing wider conversations in our areas of expertise, and reaching and involve new audiences to collectively tackle society’s challenges. We will utilise our leading expertise in communication and public engagement from across our institution to expand our range of activities to be shared with the global community.
Our actions over the next 5 years will focus on:
/ Working with other GM universities under the GM Civic Universities Agreement to engage meaningfully with our local community;
/ Building on our long-standing relationship with Salford City Council to support their priorities in relation to Salford residents and employers, particularly relating to the inclusive economy and tackling poverty.
/ Developing central coordination around our public and community engagement to provide an overarching institutional direction, connecting activities across schools, and ensuring common approaches. This includes seeking opportunities where partnerships developed through engagement can open other avenues for collaboration in research and enterprise;
/ Establishing a formal annual programme of festivals and
events where we take a leading role (e.g., Celebration of Innovation, Public Engagement Festival, Manchester Science Festival), ensuring these are fully aligned to our strategy direction and increasing the participation of staff and students across the University in delivering these through communicating the opportunities to build partnerships and showcase our expertise.
/ Growing our online engagement activities to establish an institutional presence for public engagement, driving new connections and opportunities within research and enterprise.
Increase research and enterprise income to £21m;
Within phase 1 of the campus masterplan deliver a new Acoustics building;
Increase the size of the PGR community in alignment to SGL areas and EAGLEs, and on-time completion rates to be sustained at a minimum of 75%;
Develop four research and enterprise focused strategic partnerships by 2026;
Building on our success in REF2021, achieve top 50 by Grade Point Average in the next REF (likely to be 2027);
Increase representation within our next REF staff submission:
/ Increase the proportion of the submission comprising women to 48% to match the proportion of our academic staff overall who are female;
/ Increase the proportion of the submission comprising staff from a BAME background;
/ Further reduce the gap between eligible and submitted between men and women so that women are equally as likely to be included as their male colleagues (currently 12% gap);
Improve our performance in KEF within cluster E; particularly in relation to Public and Community Engagement.