Professor of Crop Physiology Peter Kettlewell has shared reflections from his time as the Research Co-ordinator at Harper Adams with GuildHE - The representative body for smaller and specialist higher education institutions.
In his article. Professor Kettlewell looks back at how he developed research at Harper Adams as it became a university – and how, during this time, external income for research was key.
This meant as Professor Kettlewell notes:
“…a major focus was on working with staff to increase the number and quality of contract and grant applications, as well as further developing support for Principal Investigators. During this time, external research income rose sevenfold.
“The role involved supporting about 100 research-active academic staff at a very wide range of levels, from lecturers with a Bachelor’s degree keen to get funding for their own part-time PhD study, to Professors with extensive funding track-records. I also engaged with research directors, academics and their research support staff in many other universities in the UK and in a wide range of other countries.
“Since we already had a good track-record with industry funding, researchers in businesses were a crucial link. I supported many small and large funding applications, which allowed me to see what makes a researcher successful with grant applications. These ranged from a few hundred pounds travel grant for attending a workshop to a five-year multi-national €18 million project.”
Projects often included those which Governments had identified as crucial for long-term economic development – with Professor Kettlewell citing the integration of robotics, sensors and data to find solutions to widespread problems as an example.
Across all these projects, Professor Kettlewell believes there are a set of skills which can help researchers stand out from the crowd.
He demonstrates how these skills can be crucial in trend-driven and high-profile areas – citing their development as one of two ways to develop key research.
“The main skills are probably those involved in leadership in any sphere, and include:
The other way Professor Kettlewell believes researchers can develop their research is by working in a small, niche area – but one in which they believe success will pay dividends.
“The important skill is then finding a funder who can be persuaded by the proposal to share this belief.”