Four new targets have been added to the University of Cambridge’s Strategic Research Initiative program, which fosters multi-disciplinary collaboration to advance innovative research.

These latest initiatives are underpinned by a proven track record of research success

Professor Lynn Gladden, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research

Big Data, Cardiovascular Disease, Public Policy and Synthetic Biology join a portfolio of Strategic Research Initiatives that are building on existing research expertise to address multi-disciplinary research challenges. By bringing together academics from different disciplines working towards the same goals, these initiatives are harnessing researchers’ skills and expertise, resulting in ground-breaking developments and enhancing real-world impact.

“Like our other strategic initiatives, these latest initiatives are underpinned by a proven track record of research success,” said Professor Lynn Gladden, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research. “Supporting them through the Strategic Research Initiative program will help to increase our national and international impact, and make our research more visible to funding agencies, charities, industry and donors.”

The Big Data initiative addresses the need to make sense of the mass of information gathered since the dawn of the digital age. With essential applications in a host of areas including government, business, science and health, developing platforms to analyse and extract meaningful information from huge collections of data is essential. Whether it’s utilising data from our mobile devices or making sense of the staggering mass of numbers coming out of the Large Hadron Collider, finding efficient and effective ways of interpreting this information will have wide-ranging impact. The Big Data Strategic Research Initiative will help to address both the practical and more intangible implications of this potential wealth of information, as well as the ethical, legal and political implications of harnessing these data.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the UK, and an area of intense research spanning 30 different departments and research institutes across the University, from developmental biology to engineering to public health. Cardiovascular research is also a major source of grant funding, with more than £200 million currently awarded to the University for research. With Cambridge already an international leader in the field, the Cardiovascular Disease initiative will combine expertise from across disciplines to tackle this public health crisis and improve the management, treatment and prevention of this deadly illness.

At the local, national and international level, linking research developments with government policy makers is essential, ensuring that the important work done at the University has a real-world impact. Many researchers work in areas across the humanities and sciences that have direct relevance to public policy, including evidence collation and horizon scanning, and many senior academics already serve as consultants for government. The Strategic Research Initiative in Public Policy will link these activities, with a particular focus on studying the policy process and the impact that new technologies have on policy decision making, as well as to ensure support for future evidence-based policy decisions.

Synthetic biology has been named a major research initiative for the UK and is one of the fastest-growing scientific and technological arenas, combining cutting-edge research from engineering with the physical and biological sciences. An early leader in the field, Cambridge has played a key role in advances in bioengineering, computational modelling and the development of technical standards and protocols, as well as in policy discussions. The Strategic Research Initiative in Synthetic Biology will take Cambridge activities to a new level through transformational research, interdisciplinary exchange and open technologies for innovation.

For further information about the Strategic Research Initiatives, please visit here. In addition to the 12 Strategic Initiatives, the University has also identified other areas of work where cross-disciplinary connections are important. These are the seven Strategic Research Networks.

The four new initiatives and their academic leaders

Big Data
Professor Paul Alexander (Department of Physics)

Cardiovascular Disease
Professor Martin Bennett and Professor Nicholas Morrell (Department of Medicine)

Public Policy
Professor Simon Deakin (Faculty of Law/Centre for Business Research) and Dr David Howarth (Department of Land Economy/Department of Politics and International Studies

Synthetic Biology
Dr Jim Haseloff, Department of Plant Sciences

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