Last month, my job title changed. I am now Pro Vice Chancellor (Research, Innovations and External Relations) with a few extra responsibilities under my portfolio. I am excited by my new title not because it is getting longer, but because of what it signifies in terms of the importance of external relations for the University and our region. So why the change?

First, the new title reflects my continuing enthusiasm and support for our emerging philanthropic and alumni relations. This enterprise started from scratch only a few years ago under the leadership of Dorothy Albrecht(Director of Marketing and Communications) and Brenda Tournier (Director of Alumni and Advancement) has already delivered new foundation funding for our Revolution Plastics initiative with more such opportunities in the pipeline. Our ambition for philanthropic fund-raising is in the millions of pounds of additional resources for our staff and students, allowing us to do more than is possible through the traditional UK government route, which remains challenging.  We are also talking more than ever with our alumni with nearly 30% now receiving regular email updates from us and hundreds of alumni actively engaged in strategic giving and volunteering. Please contact the Advancement and Alumni team if you want to know more.

We are also developing strategic relationships with key external partners. It is now over 18 months since we signed our strategic partnership with Portsmouth Hospital University Trust, a relationship we have continued to build during the COVID pandemic. We helped the hospital gain university status and closely collaborated on delivering our COVID testing last year including our genomic sequencing for the COG-UK consortium. We continue to promote joint research and innovation, and seek to strengthen the relationship with joint professorships. Such relationships form the bedrock of our wider civic university agenda, including partnerships with Portsmouth Football Club and establishing the University of Portsmouth Academy Trust. 

Beyond our city, we will be working with partners and continuing to grow our engagement with industry and commerce. As we look to recover from the pandemic, our help to the economy will be vital in providing consultancy, training and shared research and development. We are already seeing increased demand for our Innovation Connect centres with Cell Block and Halpern House at near full capacity, while we look to re-style Technopole for the new world of hybrid working sweeping through organisations. The Ingenuity programme saw cross-departmental collaboration between Innovation Connect, the Careers and Employability Service and the Alumni team. Students, graduates and academics alike all engaged with the programme, resulting in three UoP-linked entries winning awards at the national finals in May; a fantastic achievement. Our colleagues in Business and Law are exploiting their Small Business Charter status to help hundreds of local SMEs, while colleagues in CCI are making the new Centre for Creative and Immersive extended reality (CCIXR) a key vehicle for local engagement and recovery through investments from the Solent LEP and government levelling-up funds. 

I am also proud of our recent leadership around the development of the Solent Freeport. This major government investment has the potential for helping our region with significant inward investment creating new jobs and new opportunities for up-skilling people and delivering the UK’s ambitious net-zero carbon emissions targets. As an associate member of the board of the new Solent Freeport Consortium Limited, I will represent the three solent universities involved in the project and have already begun to develop with colleagues an innovation strategy with all stakeholders across the company and region. Such freeports will be a key mechanism for the Treasury to deliver their “levelling up” agenda and we can also see how future funding opportunities will be linked to these freeports.

As the pandemic eases, we must also re-energise our global partnerships and networks. We can still apply for Horizon Europe funding with our european colleagues and we still share common problems and solutions with them. Our recent joint degrees with Edith Cowan University in Australia should also be a platform for joint research and innovation building around our common themes in health, people, place and sustainability. Both Chris Chang and I will be looking at strengthening the alignment between our global and research ambitions and developing our implementation plans over the coming months. 

The pandemic has shown us again that we need each other and the importance of relationships. That is true for universities and I look forward to developing those external relationships into the future. Feel free to contact me if you wish to know more about how you and your colleagues can contribute.