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  5. Activity 4: Building On Our Strengths

Activity 4: Building On Our Strengths


Within our research portfolio there are teams and clusters that have the potential to deliver major impact. For those areas we recognise that competition is intensifying for external funding and to attract key partners.

We also recognise that the overall reputation of our research is enhanced by the maturation of concentrated centres of excellence. Therefore, we aim to support major research collaborations that can compete with the very best and can deliver globally significant outputs and impact.


We will set targets for:

  • Increased funding and donation for cross-University initiatives (if formed).
  • Attraction of new staff and externally funded fellows to join centres of excellence where this helps achieve EDI targets.


Develop business plans with Faculties for cross-University initiatives.

The affordability of investment in these centres of excellence will be dependent on building business plans that are sustainable beyond the timescale of any pump-priming investment.

We will begin by considering sustainable models for areas grown within the Strategic Research Areas namely, astrobiology and space, educational technology and international development. If investment is available and justified we will extend this work to consider new initiatives in an open competition coordinated by Faculties.

Simplify our centre, institute and network structures to clarify our key research strengths and reduce administrative overhead.

We have many research groupings with no overarching naming conventions and considerable overlap in research across similar ‘centres’. Each centre has an administrative overhead associated with set-up and running. In addition, the impact on external collaborations is diluted by the complexity and scale of our named ‘centres’ portfolio.

Working with Faculties we will consider how we can clarify our structures. This will be an evolutionary process with the aim of steadily moving to a simplified structure over the next three years.

Strengthen submission to future research assessment exercises.

REF continues to be important for the OU because it determines long-term QR funding for research and influences external perceptions.

To maintain our investment in research through QR income and protect our external reputation for research we therefore need to secure our broad disciplinary research strength. To do this, we will develop plans at the institutional, faculty and disciplinary levels that build on REF 2021 outcomes and strengthen submissions to future research assessment exercises.