WUN investing in research that matters

The Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) announced today the results of the 2013 round of the annual Research Development Fund, marking a direct investment into international, interdisciplinary research of £166,786 (US$273,888).

A total of 16 projects across all of WUN’s Global Challenge thematic research areas was awarded funding for projects to begin in early 2014.

Among those is a project that will result in methods for optimizing grazing livestock production systems around the world. A key aspect of achieving food security is the maximisation of agricultural production while minimising environmental degradation. This is referred to as sustainable intensification and is vital as the world’s appetite for both cereals and protein increases. The project, led by Bristol with partners at Alberta, Leeds, Penn State, Wisconsin, Western Australia and Zhejiang, will focus on developing model farming platforms in five different eco-regions on six continents.

Funding will also go towards the establishment of a WUN Indigenous Research Network. Led by Sydney, with partners at Alberta, Auckland, Bergen, Cape Town, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Rochester, Southampton and Western Australia, the network will examine ways that research on indigenous communities can be more targeted and effective in improving the lives of native peoples around the world. It will draw on the comparative experiences of indigenous cultures including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia, the Sami of Norway, the Maori of New Zealand, and the First Nations of Canada.

Professor John Hearn, Executive Director of WUN, said "WUN is committed to bringing together teams of researchers from across our network of leading universities to tackle issues that matter to global society. The Research Development Fund provides modest seed funding to catalyse these teams to build sustainable, long term research projects that partner with practitioners, policymakers and industry to make an impact on the challenges our world faces".

Professor Hearn went on to say that WUN has unique strengths to mobilise teams of researchers: "Food security, epidemics of obesity and diabetes, migration flows – these are all issues that require global teams of experts, drawn from a variety of disciplines. Policymakers and funding agencies are recognising more and more that WUN is a powerful partner in designing solutions to global challenges."

The WUN Research Development Fund was established in 2009 to fulfil one of WUN’s key missions of fostering interdisciplinary research in areas of global concern. Over the past four years the fund has invested over £1 million in international collaborative research, which has leveraged many times this sum.