The University of Exeter has seen exceptional recent growth in research funding and collaborations with European partners. 

University of Exeter celebrates European partnerships, research and education

Friday 8 May 2020 is the 75th anniversary of VE Day, a time of reflection and remembrance, and the following day is Europe Day, when many will celebrate the hard won peace and unity following the Second World War.

To mark the week the University of Exeter is celebrating positive partnerships and connections built across Europe in recent years. The week will start with a blog by newly appointed Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor (Europe) Sally Faulkner. She says:

“The past few months have marked an extraordinary start to a new decade and the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a crisis across Europe and the world of a magnitude we have probably not seen since the Second World War. European countries and communities have been amongst the worst affected, with high death tolls and major impacts on people’s lives and livelihoods. We have been reminded once more that the challenges facing humanity do not respect borders and that we must work together as nations to solve problems and create a better world.”

“Universities must be at the forefront of this collaboration and I believe the academic community are well placed to bring our countries and communities together through this time of crisis and renewal. We already collaborate on world-class education and research that enrich and improve all our lives, from culture and the arts, to science and business. We are well connected to our communities and governments and in the months and years ahead we must use our influence, knowledge and experience to help shape a healthier and happier world that we can sustain for future generations.”

You can read Sally Faulkner’s full blog on European partnerships, education and research and also a range of Exeter’s European research and education stories on a new Europe News page

The University of Exeter has seen exceptional recent growth in research funding and collaborations with European partners. Exeter is currently 14th in the UK for EU Horizon funding and in 2020 obtained €90,203,573 for 152 projects - 88 with EU partners.

Another of our strengths at Exeter is addressing the environment and climate emergency - perhaps the biggest challenge of our generation beyond Covid-19 - and it is especially noteworthy that under Horizon Society Challenge 5, the “Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials,” Exeter is the top-performing institution in the UK by value of grant and 7th in the EU as a whole by value and volume of grants.

Examples of European research in Exeter’s Academic Colleges

Summarised below are just some of Exeter’s major European research collaborations or funded projects and in the days and weeks ahead the University will promote many, many more.   

In the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences Professor Pierre Friedlingstein is the Principal Investigator on Climate-Carbon Interactions in the Current Century (4C) which addresses the crucial knowledge gap in the global carbon cycle and the response of the climate system to carbon dioxide emissions. 4C is bringing together leading European groups on climate modelling and carbon cycle research, uniquely securing Europe’s leadership in actionable science needed for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments.

In the College of Life and Environmental Sciences Professor Chris Bass is the Principal Investigator in Understanding and exploiting the insect P450 resistome This project looks at insect resistance to synthetic insecticides and the defence chemicals produced by many plants which is an ongoing challenge to sustainable pest management.  A “superfamily” of enzymes called P450s is one of the most important enzyme families used by insects to defend themselves against natural and synthetic chemicals but the changes that take place in resistant insects are not fully understood. This project will provide new insights into this important enzyme family and provide tools that can be used to develop new products and strategies that slow, prevent or overcome resistance and so ensure sustainable crop protection.

Linking up work in the College of Medicine and Health and the College of Life and Environmental Sciences is a project with Professor Lora Fleming as the Principal Investigator on Linking Up Environment, Health and Climate for Inter-sector Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in a Rapidly Changing Environment. The BlueHealth Consortium brings together a multi-disciplinary team of experts reaching across all 28 European Union countries. This four-and-a-half-year BlueHealth project takes an international, interdisciplinary and multi-sector approach to health promotion and disease prevention by investigating the relationship between the EU’s “blue infrastructure” and the health and well-being of its citizens. 

Also in the College of Medicine and Health is a project called the Biomarker Enterprise to Attack DKD (Diabetic Kidney Disease) led in Exeter by Angela Shore. The BEAt-DKD (“Biomarker Enterprise to Attack Diabetic Kidney Disease”) consortium is a unique collaboration between public and private sectors. The overall aim of the consortium is to improve prevention and management of diabetic kidney disease (DKD), the most common form of chronic kidney disease. Working with 22 different institutions across Europe and nine pharmaceutical and biotech companies, the consortium will work to identify mechanisms and pathways underlying initiation, progression and variations in DKD that could be targets for new treatments. In addition, the group will work to identify and validate predictors of disease progression and treatment responses through ‘biomarkers’ such as indicators in urine or blood samples of the disease state in the individual.

The Vista-AR project lead academic is Professor Andi Smart in the Exeter Business School and this European partnership is using both augmented reality and virtual reality technology to bring heritage sites to life. Walking on the edge of Exeter Cathedral through to showing how the Notre-Dame Cathedral can be accurately mapped rebuilt. The University of Exeter leads the project which has received more than five million euros of funding between the eight partners involved in Exeter, Bournemouth and Brittany.

In the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies part of the College of Social Sciences and International Studies Professor Tim Insoll has European funding for a project called Becoming Muslim: Conversion to Islam and Islamisation in Eastern Ethiopia. Professor Insoll is using archaeology to trace the early history of Islam in this part of Africa.

In the College of Humanities, Professor Jane Whittle has European funding to look at Forms of Labour: Gender, Freedom and Experience of Work in the Preindustrial Economy. The project is using court records to show a more accurate picture of women’s work in the early modern period. She is currently tracing the history of the gender pay gap and forced labour.

Date: 4 May 2020

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