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From the Vice-Chancellor – February 2023

1 March 2023

8 mins

In my February newsletter: Partnerships with US organisations and the Institute of Sports Humanities, the 2023 LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards, #BehindtheLens in LGBT+ History Month, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, and new Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor roles.

Partnerships in the US

At the end of last month, I undertook my first trip to the US in my capacity as Vice-Chancellor. The visit enabled me to meet with many individuals and organisations, both in terms of expanding our partnerships and establishing new ones. 

I spent the early part of the trip at MIT in Boston, meeting senior leaders and academics to expand the collaboration between our institutions, and I joined colleagues at the University of Oregon to discuss research initiatives that will enable us to harness the power of sport as a vehicle for positive change.

I met the brilliant team from NFL (the National Football League), whose UK-based Academy relocated to Loughborough College and the University for the start of this academic year. I toured their HQ and discussed exciting ideas and opportunities to continue to build our partnership with them. Then I met Emma Wade-Smith, His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America and HM Consul General New York, about better promoting the University in the US.

During the trip I hosted two receptions for our alumni – one in New York and the other in San Francisco – which enabled me to get to know some of our US-based graduates much better. It was a real pleasure to hear the many lovely stories and memories our alumni have of the University. The affinity they have for Loughborough is truly heart-warming. 

Visits such as these are an important part of the international engagement and impact core plan, one of the key aims in our University Strategy. I will bring you further news of our partnership developments as they progress.

LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards

The 2023 LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards were held this month and I was delighted to see Loughborough research and innovation initiatives receive six awards in total: five of the 10 category awards, plus the overall Innovator of the Year honour.

The University has been well represented in the region’s flagship celebration of innovation since the awards’ launch in 2019. This year we had 12 nominations across eight categories, a record number, with the finalists representing research collaborations and academic spinouts and graduate start-ups launched from LUinc., the University’s incubator on Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park.

The Innovation in Logistics and Exports category and the prestigious Innovator of the Year award were presented to CarbonVue, an industry-first digital solution to help UK businesses rise to the net zero by 2050 challenge. CarbonVue’s development has been supported by Loughborough supply chain experts and trialled with Tata Steel UK and Moovero. By March this year the innovative platform will commercially be available for any customer to use. 

The Innovation in Food and Drink award went to high-tech food machinery manufacturers Millitec Food Systems, which partnered with a team of our computer scientists to create a unique sandwich-making robot featuring the latest embedded artificial intelligence technology.

Rewire Fitness, a US-based start-up co-founded by Sports Science alumnus Ed Gibbins, won the Innovation in Sport, Wellbeing and Accessibility category. Rewire Fitness is a mental fitness platform that helps athletes reach their full potential and avoid burnout through tools that improve mindset, readiness and resilience.

The University’s 20-year partnership with adidas, which has enabled the design, manufacture and analysis of global sports products and driven impacts in other sectors, was recognised with the Innovation in STEM industries award.

The Innovation in Sustainability award went to Plastic Energy, which is transforming the global landscape of plastic waste by converting previously difficult to recycle plastic into a recycled oil that replaces fossil oils in the production of new plastics. The company, whose R&D hub is based on LUSEP, has partnered with Loughborough’s Chemistry researchers for a decade to accelerate this recycling process.

Many congratulations to all our winners and finalists who have shown real ingenuity and determination in solving some of today’s most pressing problems.

LGBT+ History Month: #BehindTheLens

The theme for this year’s LGBT+ History Month, which ran throughout February, was #BehindTheLens, celebrating LGBT+ people’s contribution to cinema and film.

The University’s LGBT+ Staff Network curated an exciting programme of events under the theme, including one of the keynote talks of the month by Jake and Hannah Graf, described by The Guardian as “the UK’s most influential LGBT+ power couple”. Hannah and Jake discussed their recent TV documentary that followed their journey to becoming trans parents, and Jake also talked about his experience of working as an international multi-award-winning director, writer and actor.   

The Students’ LGBT+ Association offered a range of activities, including a chance for staff and students to join a training session with local football club Leicester Wildecats, and LU Arts also launched a project with LU Architecture and Adam Nathaniel Furman, the co-author of Queer Spaces, to develop a new ‘queer space’ for the campus.

Events such as LGBT+ History Month enable us to reflect on the progress we are making to improve the experience of LGBT+ people, both in society in general and on our own campuses, and to consider the steps we can all take to make Loughborough a more welcoming, inclusive community.

Association of Commonwealth Universities

This month the University became a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) – a collaborative network of more than 500 institutions across 50 countries that use higher education as a cornerstone to build stronger societies and a better world.

Our membership of the ACU will enable us to collaborate with other member universities on initiatives that tackle today’s global challenges, such as climate resilience, and we will have the opportunity to contribute to high-level international policy agendas at Commonwealth ministerial meetings and the United Nations, for example. Our staff and students will also be able to access funding for grants, fellowships and scholarships, training and education events, and opportunities to share best practice. Details of the funding available this academic year are available on the ACU website.

The ACU’s three major themes – access and inclusion; international mobility; and higher education for sustainable development – align closely with the ethos, aims and themes of our own University strategy. Our membership of the ACU will open up exciting new opportunities for us to engage and partner with universities around the world and will enable us to explore international education and training opportunities that have the power to make a positive and lasting difference.

Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor roles

Our three institutional themes – Sport, Health and WellbeingClimate Change and Net Zero; and Vibrant and Inclusive Communities – are a central element of our Strategic Plan. They encapsulate our significant strengths and over the coming years will influence our curricula, research and strategic partnerships, and drive our international reputation.

The themes are inter-disciplinary, each cutting across multiple Academic Schools and Professional Service areas. To ensure we bring together and maximise our activity under the themes, we will be appointing two co-leads for each – Associate Pro Vice-Chancellors who will be responsible for coordinating, championing and driving forward the activity.

We have now begun recruitment to these new roles next month, with a view to having appointees in place for early summer. These will be internal appointments and are open to all staff. The establishment of these roles is an exciting step forward in the delivery of our Strategy, and I look forward to working closely with those we appoint to these positions.

Institute of Sport Humanities partnerships

We will soon announce a new partnership between the Institute of Sports Humanities (ISH) and Loughborough University London to offer a Master’s programme in Leadership in Sport.

ISH’s mission is to nurture and inspire sport’s current and future leaders around the world and the Institute has educated leaders from some of sport’s elite organisations, such as the Football Association, England Cricket and the Rugby Football League.

The MA Leadership in Sport will help those on the course to develop their impact and effectiveness in leading and managing individuals, teams and organisations, and will be ideally suited to executives working in the sports industry, professionals seeking a career in sport and athletes looking for specialised education to support their leadership development on and off the field. 

I look forward to welcoming our first cohort of students to our London campus later this year. This exciting new programme aligns closely with our strategic objective to engage in partnerships that amplify our impact on sport.

Vice-Chancellor's Communications

Opinions and comment from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Jennings

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