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Vice-Chancellor sets sights on five major world issues

29 September 2015

VC on stage with URI launch banners

University launches five new flagship research institutes

The University is reinvigorating its commitment to solving some of the most pressing problems facing humanity with the establishment of five new flagship Research Institutes.

The newly launched institutes will aim to develop cures for major chronic disease, reduce crime and increase security, harness ‘Big Data’ to tackle real-world problems, develop wiser methods of water use amid a growing global scarcity, and support the development of smarter energy systems.

World-leading experts from a variety of disciplines will pool their expertise to develop new and innovative solutions to intractable world issues that have a lasting impact. As well as creating opportunities for existing researchers, the institutes will serve to attract the best international talent to Cardiff.

Their establishment will more than double the number of Cardiff’s Research Institutes, bringing the number to nine in total – the first four of which became active in 2011. In the four years since their formation, the original research institutes have made huge strides in their respective fields.

For example, researchers working in the University’s European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute (ECSCRI) have in the past two years alone developed two experimental cancer-halting drugs using a novel computer aided modelling technique - one has now been licensed by a UK pharmaceutical company with a view to progressing the drug to human trials

The Cardiff Catalysis Institute has also made significant headway in discovering that when used as a catalyst, gold has the potential to save lives, improve health and clean up the environment.

Their counterparts in the Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI) continue to build on the discovery of 21 risk genes linked to Alzheimer’s and over 100 genetic risk factors linked to schizophrenia. while the Sustainable Places Research Institute continues to develop new scientific approaches to more sustainable living.

The new institutes – which includeData Innovation Research Institute’, ‘Systems Immunity Research Institute’, ‘Waters Research Institute’, ‘Crime and Security Research Institute’ and ‘The Energy Systems Research Institute’ – will be instrumental in building on the success of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) which propelled Cardiff to 5th in the UK for the quality of its research, and 2nd for impact.

Moreover, it is hoped that these new research activities will help carry forward the University’s strategic aim of breaking into the QS World University top-100 rankings by 2017.

Cardiff’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, said: “We want our new institutes to send a clear message that we have the critical mass and the academic excellence to make a difference to major problems facing humanity, and in these fields we intend to be world leaders.

“In the short time since the original institutes were formed in 2011, their pioneering work in areas ranging from drug discovery to neurological disease has already signalled to the world Cardiff’s strengths and intentions as a global university.

“It is important that our research continues to offer answers to the biggest challenges that threaten our future, and I’m confident that by focusing our energies on these new areas we can succeed.”

Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart AM, said: “Cardiff University has a strong track record of producing world-class research with social and economic impact, which contributes strongly to the Welsh Government’s ambition for a stronger science base.

“These new research institutes will bring together academics from a range of disciplines to tackle the major challenges facing society, the economy and the environment.”

Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales and Cardiff University Professor, Julie Williams, said: “The 2014 Research Excellence Framework results showed that researchers in Wales are among the best in the UK and the world. Cardiff University plays a big part in that, the same review placed them in the top five Universities for research and excellence, and second in the UK for impact.

“These flagship research institutes will ensure that excellence in research is turned into new solutions to some of the biggest problems facing society today.”

A launch event in the Pierhead Building of Cardiff Bay will be held on 29 September (6pm-8pm) to showcase the new flagship research institutes.