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Research grants at Aston up by 24%

Aston is defying the economic downturn by posting a significant increase in research grant income.

To the end of June 2009, Aston has received research grant awards to the value of £9.4m, compared to £7.6m this time last year. This represents a 24% increase – a terrific achievement in the circumstances.

Professor Graham Hooley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said, ‘The increase in grant awards is testament to the hard work, academic quality and ambition of our researchers. I would also like to acknowledge the dedication of the support teams within the Schools, and the expertise provided by the Research Development Managers and other colleagues in the Research Support Office.’

The success can in part be attributed to new measures developed over the past twelve months to improve the quality and quantity of grant applications. The creation of dedicated Research Development Manager (RDM) posts for the Schools, working within the Research Support Office has helped academics to access opportunities and increase their chance of success. Colleagues interested in working with their RDM should contact Jane Crier for ABS, Karen Woodhall for LHS, Paul Knobbs for EAS, or Kevin O’Reilly for LSS and CLIPP. Associate Deans of Research in the Schools have also made significant contributions by arranging grant writing retreats and pre-submission peer review, while the recently launched Early Career Academics’ Research forum will help equip new researchers with the skills to make successful grant applications.

For other activities offered by the Research Support Office, visit their website - http://www1.aston.ac.uk/staff/rso/ - or contact Brian Elliott, Acting Head of Research Support Office. You may also be able to access help from your School. Contact your relevant Associate Dean (Research) for more information. 

Some of the major grants that have contributed towards the £9.4m total (this is not an exhaustive list) include*: £677,950 for Professor Mike West and colleagues to investigate ‘Capacity Building Clusters in Business Research and Engagement’; £1,465,899 for Dr Philip Davies and colleagues as part of the Science Bridge Programme looking at Technology and Business Solutions for the UK and India; £648,319 for Dr Tim Meese and colleagues to investigate ‘The Spatial Integration and Segmentation of Luminance Contrast in Human Spatial Vision’; £40,158 for Dr Urszula Clark and colleagues for ‘Language and Place:Birmingham’; and £193,000 for Dr Robin Clark of CLIPP for examining ‘Pathways to Success through Peer Mentoring’. In addition, the INDEX innovation vouchers scheme, developed and managed by Aston, has received over £1m funding over the past year, and a £1m equipment grant was recently secured by Professor Paul Furlong for a paediatric MEG scanner as part of the Aston Brain Centre development.

However, with the economy likely to remain tough for the foreseeable future and Government spending on Higher Education unclear, Professor Hooley warns against complacency: ‘We have done well, but we need to continue improving. In Aston’s research strategy, we are aiming for research grant income of £20m per annum by 2011-12 It is increasingly tough to win research grants as competition is increasing and funders find themselves constrained in the money available,, but we must give it everything we can. Our first target is £10m for this academic year, and we hope to build from there.’

* Only principal investigators have been named, but we recognise the collaborative and often inter-School partnerships that deliver these projects

Words by Chris Harrison

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