Keele’s Vice-Chancellor appointed as new Chair of Midlands Innovation

Keele University’s Vice-Chancellor has been appointed as the new Chair of a collaborative partnership championing innovation and progress across the Midlands.

Professor Trevor McMillan has been appointed as the new Chair of Midlands Innovation, a collaboration of the region’s top eight research-intensive universities that collaborate on research, development and innovation.

Professor McMillan takes over the role from Professor Alec Cameron, the Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, whose two-year term as MI Chair has now ended, and he will also become the Midlands Innovation representative on the Board on Midlands Engine – the pan-regional growth partnership.

Professor McMillan said: “I am delighted to be named as Chair of the Midlands Innovation partnership and to lead the partnership over the next two years together with MI Director, Dr Helen Turner.

“I would like to thank Alec for driving our partnership forwards over his tenure. Midlands Innovation has achieved so much over the last two years, including our Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) – which is the UK’s largest green energy research partnership – demonstrating in 2020 that in year four (of a five-year programme) it had already delivered its original objectives.

“MI also undertook the country’s largest ever gathering of Higher Education and Research Technicians with the partnership hosting in 2019 the most successful UK Higher Education Technician Summit (HETS) to date, and being awarded funding by Research England in 2020 for the MI technician TALENT programme – representing the UK’s largest ever investment in Higher Education and Research technicians.

“Professor Cameron has also successfully steered the partnership through the enormous challenges to date of the coronavirus pandemic, which has not only seen our health research arm – MI Health - at the forefront of the UK’s research efforts to defeat the virus, it has also seen a fundamental and rapid shift in how our partnership, our collaborative research, and our academic networks have had to undertake their work.”

Professor McMillan has been at the forefront of enhancing knowledge exchange across the country in his national role as Knowledge Exchange Champion for Research England. He has led the development of the Knowledge Exchange Concordat with Universities UK, GuildHE and Research England, and also recently published a report on technology transfer from universities, the recommendations of which have been supported by the Government.

In 2020, Professor McMillan was also part of the National Centre for University and Businesses’ R&D Taskforce to advise on the future of UK Research and Development (R&D). The Taskforce, requested by UK Research and Innovation, considered how partnerships between universities and businesses can be strengthened and maximised to drive growth and prosperity.

He added: “This year is already shaping up to be a fantastic year for our partnership with our sector-leading technician TALENT programme set to launch the findings of the UK’s first technician focused policy commission in the autumn. The policy commission will address the shortfall in research technicians that has also recently been highlighted by the Royal Society as critical to delivering the country’s aspiration of investing 2.4% of GDP in Research and Development.

“ERA is putting a compelling case forward, backed by businesses, LEPs, MPs and Local Authorities in the region, that, with further investment, it can not only help to deliver levelling-up in the Midlands by creating nearly 7,000 jobs and delivering £1.5bn GVA to the regional and national economy, it can also undertake the fundamental research needed to drive green energy innovation. With the UK also hosting COP26 this year, and the recent announcement on the acceleration of the country’s aspirations to reach net-zero, ERA has an even more important role this year.”