About the Project

How it all began - Stage 1: Modelling Methods for Medical Engineering, the 3ME Initiative

In 2007 members from two of Keele’s Research Institutes, the Institute for Science & Technology in Medicine (ISTM), and Environment, Physical Sciences and Applied Mathematics (EPSAM as it was then called), met together to discuss the possibilities of greater interdiciplinary research. This arose because two Keele Professors, Jon Dobson and Peter Styles, had realised that their PhD projects had been in similar areas but they had taken quite different career paths, and that there were many key problems in medical engineering that could be solved by applying the latest modelling methods. I addition, several Kelee mathematicians, led by Dr Shailesh Naire, were seeking some new areas of application for their maths especially around modelling fluid flows, and these had a particular applicaiton in the research being carried out in ISTM at that time.

The three groups worked together and submitted a successful application for £285k to the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) "Bridging the Gaps" call for proposals, for which the Principal Investigator was Prof Alicia El Haj (ISTM). The grant funded three years of exciting multi-disciplinary research called "Modelling Methods for Medical Engineering", or the 3ME Initiative, which was completed successfully in July 2011.

The 3ME Initiative developed a number of platforms to deliver the objectives including:

  • Sandpits,
  • Seminar schemes,
  • Researchers in Residence,
  • Mini-projects,
  • Speed dating opportunities, and
  • Dissemination forums.

The Initiative worked alongside Keele's other existing EPSRC, MRC and BBSRC programmes. These included "Creativity at Keele", Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) and Research Centre grants from the EPSRC, plus a "Longer and Larger Award (LOLA) from BBSRC and some long term MRC clinical trial programmes.

The 3ME Initiative quickly gained momentum and was very successful, with a significant impact in terms of long lasting interaction between the three groups. Output metrics have been reported in the final report to the EPSRC submitted on 19 October 2011 including a number of high quality papers published or in review, and these have subsequently been reported through ResearchFish.

During the period 2008-11 the 3ME Initiative members applied to various organisations for £5 million follow-on funding to progress the ideas born through the various sandpit meetings or from the 3ME seedcorn projects.  3ME has been responsible for creating new multidisciplinary appraoches and collaborations which would not otherwise have existed. Since then a total of over £8 million in grant applications have been made as a direct result of 3ME, with approximately a 25% success rate on grants awarded to date. This provides a good basis to ensure that activities within the 3ME will continue well beyond the lifetime of the EPSRC grant. Throughout the period 2008-12 the Keele project leaders were active with the national EPSRC "Bridging the Gaps" agenda, attending all the national steering meetings to share best practice, adn PI Prof Alicia El Haj and project manager Mark Smith presented a summary of the success of 3ME entitled "In the Same Room" at an international conference on interdisciplinary research theory and practice in 2012.

Moving Forward - Stage 2: widening "Bridging the Gaps"

The award of follow–on funds from the EPSRC for the period 2011-2012 followed on extremely well from the 3ME Initiative as it allowed Keele to use similar schemes to expand the activities beyond these two original Research Institutes into other research disciplines within the Humanities and Social Sciences. The University highlighted two multidisciplinary research platforms which formed horizontal themes across multiple departments: Ageing and Environment. Within those theme areas it was possible to target topics to look at multidisciplinary working right across the University.

To deliver this objective a new Bridging the Gaps Executive Board was formed, chaired by Professor Alicia El Haj. Planned activities fell into three categories broadly focused on Leadership, Communication and Strategy (in line with the EPSRC Forward Plan).  The following sub-topics were highlighted for emphasis across the University:

  • Environment and Health,
  • Ageing,
  • Politics & Ethics with Human and Regenerative Medicine,
  • Creative disciplines with Health and Wellbeing
  • Engineering and Music.

Activities were grouped under three programmes, building on those activities that had been particularly cost-effective under the 3ME Initiative:

  • Workshops with seed corn funding for projects which will allow us to formulate Strategy,
  • Research Group Open Days which will focus on improved Communication,  and
  • Researchers in Residence programme which continues our focus on generating multidisciplinary Leaders at Keele from our younger academic community.
The future - Stage 3 of "Bridging the Gaps"?

Keele University was awarded additional funds from the Medical Research Council to celebrate its centenary in 2013, and one of the internal competitions it held was linked to "Bridging the Gaps" resulting in four of Keele's most outstanding young bio-medical researchers receiving grants towards their work.

Keele's Vice Chancellor held a seminar in June 2016 to examine ways to encourage inter-disciplinary research at the University and "Bridging the Gaps" was highlighted as the most extensive initiative undertaken, which is still leading to long-term collaborations and research projects between individuals and grous that would otherwise never have met.