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President's weekly update

17 January 2019

Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and I made a short visit to Boston to learn about the land developments by universities there that are quite similar to our plans to develop North Campus into a world-leading innovation district.  This presents a huge opportunity for our University, not only to generate income over the long term (we do not plan to sell the land), but more importantly to attract innovative companies that will be of benefit to staff, students and our research. In Boston we were hosted by Dr Gerald Chan (our Foundation Lecturer last year) who set up a range of fascinating meetings for us.

These included a meeting with the President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Rafael Reif, who told us about how they had developed the Kendall Square as a thriving centre for businesses, mainly in the Life Sciences sector. 

Harvard has a 36 acre site known as the Allston District, where they will develop 14 acres in the first phase for innovative companies that will benefit staff, student and research. We met Professor Nitin Nohria, Dean of Harvard Business School, as he chairs the Harvard Allston project. It transpired that his father was a graduate of UMIST! We also met staff leading on the project to learn how they are securing plans and developers.

We also visited Northeastern University in Boston and saw some of their campus developments. Their President, Joseph Aoun, told us that all their students do two six month work placements. Northeastern is focussing on research in three areas: security, sustainability and health. None of the universities we met with have overseas campuses, but like us have some activities at many sites in the US and internationally.

Our General Assembly met this week and I gave an update on our activities; performance over the past year; challenges (notably Brexit, the Augar Review and pensions); and opportunities. It is unclear what will follow from the parliamentary vote to reject the government’s proposed Brexit deal. Leaders in universities and science have responded to this by saying that the worst outcome would be to leave the EU without a deal and I have added my voice to this. We continue to make contingency plans but in the hope that this will not happen.

Steve Dauncey, our Director of Finance, reported to General Assembly on our financial performance over the last year and future projections. Diana Hampson, our Director of Estates and Facilities, updated on our current work on North Campus, including opportunities for commercialising graphene. 

I met Chris Pope who leads the Prince’s Teaching Institute which supports teachers across all subjects. We provide many activities and support for students but will consider how we might work with the Trust to further support teachers.

At the Greater Manchester (GM) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) meeting we discussed the GM Local Industrial Strategy which is currently under consideration. GM is one of a small number of ‘trailblazer’ regions to develop their strategy first. The current plan very much aligns with our University’s strengths, with a major focus on health innovation and advanced materials/manufacturing, underpinned by digital, creative and environment. Our next GM LEP Foresight group meeting will focus on creative activities and industries in the city region.

I met Lord David Prior, who is the chair of NHS England. We discussed our priority areas in health, devolution and Health Innovation Manchester, attracting overseas companies in health, training, including for medical and nursing students, and the wider University and Manchester city region.

Michelle Mitchell OBE, who has recently become Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK and is a non-executive director of NHS England, visited us.  I met her with Kate White, our Director of Development and Alumni Relations, and Roger Spencer, CEO of The Christie. Michelle is from the North West and is one of our graduates. Our discussions focussed mainly on fundraising for the new Paterson building which was severely damaged by fire, but we also discussed our focus on and future strategy for cancer, particularly on prevention and very early detection of cancer.

At two other meetings with Inspiring Leaders Programme cohorts we talked about environmental sustainability versus cost pressures on our existing and new buildings, balancing priorities and time,  empowering staff to take responsibility for local decisions, diversifying international students, local versus devolved Professional Services, innovation and exploitation and international partnerships.

The University’s Research Review Exercise (RRE) closes at midnight on Thursday, 31 January so please ensure that you have updated your research outputs, activities and impacts by using PURE.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor