Over past weeks many aspects of academic research life have been progressing – some with vigour and others with challenges arising from access to facilities and the ability to work effectively given home situations or caring/personal responsibilities. Each and every researcher has had their own individual journey.

Overall journal submission rates are up with, in general, people using the time to reflect and then create contributions. Grant submission rates are also elevated for certain areas and to date in 2020, we have submitted over £160M in new grant proposals and secured £46.3M in new research grants. This is the highest 11-month total for new grant awards that we have ever recorded.

It has been highly beneficial, and much needed, to see the role of research in universities being recognised by wider society specifically in areas relating to medicine, medical technologies and engineering the delivery of vaccines. After all, where do the scientists, medics and engineers come from?! The development of human potential is core to Heriot-Watt’s mission in university life and drives the impact we wish to have. And we are fortunate to have several areas that are topical ‘sweet spots’. This is not comprehensive, so please forgive me, but such areas include: photonics and quantum sciences, marine and geosciences, depravation and social sciences, mathematical and computational AI sciences, robotics and medical technologies, logistics management and strategy, energy systems, business networks, smart construction and sustainable design. I could go on.

Ahead, as we develop our key research areas, these will increasingly need to connect with our educational programmes. Undergraduates are eager to connect and be equipped to know about key societal issues at first degree level. So, we need to work together to ensure we make these connections even better, and stronger, across the disciplines.

This week in my video blog, you can hear a conversation with Prof Lynne Jack who has been on secondment as Research Director and member of the Executive in the Heriot-Watt Malaysia campus. I should like to thank her for her work and commitment. You can hear Prof Jack talk about her personal success in her profession over the past few years, and her role in supporting change in Malaysia. And she talks about her experience of friendships and collegiality in working in a different part of the University, something that is very much at the heart of our University values. It also emphasises how research, whilst having some common functional characteristics (in discovering and testing new ideas and ensuring publications of quality result), has different ways of working in our different funding jurisdictions.

Finally, this has been a week of testing in Edinburgh, as you can see in the photo above, one of the Sports Halls in the ORIAM complex has been re-engineered as a testing station. Massive thanks to everyone for the brilliant team work to set up and operate the testing facility – individuals from across Professional Services, Academic staff and the Oriam team, as well as a special mention to our PhD students who have provided invaluable support.

Take care.

Professor Richard A. Williams
Principal and Vice-Chancellor