New strategy set to align Melbourne with the very best research institutions in the world
Responding to the challenges of the future, the University of Melbourne has launched a white paper which sets out its vision for research to 2025.
Research at Melbourne: Ensuring Excellence and Impact to 2025 details a strategic framework for 10-15 years with the aim of elevating the excellence and impact of the University’s already world-class research efforts.
“The environment for research-intensive universities is increasingly challenging,” says University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor James McCluskey (right).
“The competition for the best talent and resources is global and fierce,” he says.
“A collective understanding of how we undertake research at Melbourne remains critical if we are to be more visible globally as an institution that not only creates and advances knowledge, but also makes a tangible impact across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries.”
As part of the new strategy, Melbourne will invest more than $100 million over the next five years, to be spent on implementing the strategy across a range of new initiatives.
Many of these initiatives have begun to be or will be implemented within five years, and will serve as a critical foundation for achieving broader University research goals by 2025.
Central to Melbourne’s future vision for research are the ‘Grand Challenges’ set out in the white paper.
“Our research is currently shaped by many factors, including the National Research Priorities and the nature of research funding,” says Professor McCluskey.
“Most research, however, remains discipline-centred and is determined by individual researchers, many of whom are leaders in their chosen discipline.
“We will continue to cherish and cultivate the fundamental enabling disciplines from astrophysics to philosophy, but in addition to this discipline-focused and investigator-driven research, we will pursue three intertwined Grand Challenges: understanding our place and purpose; fostering health and wellbeing; and supporting sustainability and resilience.”
The University has extensive research capabilities in each of these broad areas but seeks to build this capacity further through the allocation of appropriate resources.
“The three Grand Challenges represent some of the most difficult problems facing our world in the next century,” says Professor McCluskey.
“An institutional focus on the Grand Challenges will enable us to better articulate and share the breadth of our capabilities with our partners and peers as we grow as an institution.”
The Grand Challenge of understanding our place and purpose includes all aspects of our national identity, with a focus on Australia’s ‘place’ in the Asia-Pacific region and the world, and on our ‘purpose’ or mission to improve all dimensions of the human condition through research.
Asian Development Bank projections show that by the middle of this century, Asia will account for more than half the globe’s economic output. The growing force of the Asia-Pacific region in the world will have significant implications for Australia.
“Our historical ties with the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States must accommodate these changes in geographical and political outlook,” Professor McCluskey says.
“While the University has one of the largest cohorts of academics focused on Asia, and some of this country’s most effective Asia institutes, much of this expertise is dispersed and consequently we do not derive the prominence we should from our range of Asia-related research activities.
“To help redress this, and as one measure to launch the place and purpose Grand Challenge, we will put in place a process to give Asia-related research at Melbourne a much greater profile through coherence and leadership.”
Indigenous research and the creative arts are also key platforms of the place and purpose Grand Challenge.
With nearly half its research expenditure focused on some aspect of health and wellbeing, Melbourne is already deeply involved in addressing the Grand Challenge of fostering health and wellbeing.
Melbourne has strong ties with a number of Australia’s premier clinical and research facilities including the Bio 21 Institute, the Melbourne Brain Centre, the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, the Royal Children’s Hospital, the Walter and Eliza Hall Medical Research Institute and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC).
“A fundamental objective in the next five years will be to use the scale and ‘glue’ of the University to help integrate the Parkville biomedical precinct and associated health precincts to reinforce the precinct as one of the world’s top biomedical research hubs,” says Professor McCluskey.
The third Grand Challenge of sustainability and resilience will address themes such as the physical and social functioning of cities, water management and energy efficiency.
Melbourne’s estimated research capacity in fields relevant to sustainability and resilience includes more than 1300 researchers and approximately $218 million in research expenditure.
To this end Melbourne will build on its existing capabilities to develop a research precinct focused on this challenge in South Carlton.
“The precinct will shift our model of conducting research at Melbourne,” says Professor McCluskey.
“It will place an emphasis on fostering research collaborations between academia and major industry partners, government departments and community organisations to drive projects that focus on climate change mitigation, sustainable cities and regions, and disaster management.”
The Grand Challenges are supported by a range of other major initiatives that collectively will help reset the Melbourne research agenda to make greater impact through its research, benefiting the community and positioning the University as a globally significant institution.