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John Rylands Library

Interdisciplinary research

The sheer scale of high-quality, interdisciplinary research activity here sets us apart. We're able to combine disciplines and capabilities to meet both the challenges of leading-edge research and the external demands of government, business and communities.

We created the University of Manchester Research Institute (UMRI) to take forward our goal, outlined in the Manchester 2020 strategic plan, of establishing the University as a major centre for interdisciplinary research.

UMRI enables us to achieve this by ensuring that the necessary structures, resources, incentives and governance frameworks are in place. It also nurtures the emergence of new cross-cutting themes and networks.

To make this happen, we group our research structures into the following categories:

University institutes

Our institutes carry responsibility for the University’s research priorities, working in areas where we have achieved or aspire to world-leading status.

Typically, institutes' research activity happens in one or more identifiable locations, though they also interact with related areas. Institutes are of a size that requires management beyond that of University networks, such as directorship and their own budgets.

University networks

Our networks also carry responsibility for key research areas but, unlike University institutes, function where capability is dispersed through the University, rather than at a specific location.

Networks coordinate research within their domains – for example, promoting proposals, developing relationships with external organisations and arranging seminars and doctoral training.

Though some University networks are titled as institutes, they fulfil this coordinative role rather than undertaking the directed activity of University institutes.

Grand challenges

We are making a contribution to tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges. Our work on grand challenges involves many units and researchers, sometimes in disparate areas.

UMRI, or the University institute with responsibility for the relevant area, collate these outputs and present our impact on behalf of our researchers. 

Other interdisciplinary research themes

As well as these grand challenges, there are many other examples of interdisciplinary work between our researchers, including:

  • advanced materials;
  • ageing, wellbeing and life course;
  • cancer;
  • global poverty and inequalities;
  • industrial and medical biotechnology;
  • personalised and stratified medicine;
  • policy;
  • systems and synthetic biology.

Find out more about these interdisciplinary research themes.