Inspiring the researchers of the future

01 Feb 2013

Budding researchers of the future will get the chance to experience cutting-edge research firsthand thanks to a pioneering project at The University of Manchester.

Manchester is one of 12 universities to have been awarded funding by Research Councils UK (RCUK) through its new national School-University Partnerships Initiative (SUPI). The funding for these projects exceeds £3.5 million including matched funding from universities, schools and businesses.

The three-year initiative aims to motivate young people from a diversity of backgrounds to be excited about cutting-edge research and raise their aspirations for further study and future lives. Early career researchers will have opportunities to develop their transferable skills through training and by working with school students. The initiative also aims to engage teachers in ways that have maximum impact on teaching quality and learning. The University will establish a new University of Manchester Research Gateway for Schools and Colleges which will support researchers’ direct engagement with pupils.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “Maintaining a good supply of scientists and researchers is vital to our economy and society, but to do this we need to draw talent from as wide a pool as possible. That is why the School-University Partnerships Initiative is so important. It will help to encourage young people from all backgrounds to pursue a career in research by connecting them with the UK's world-class academic community.”

A project team, including staff from across the University, will be responsible for the delivery of the Research Gateway, together with the lead school, Altrincham Grammar School for Girls. The school is a partner in the Bright Futures Education Trust, a new multi-academy, educationally-led organisation set up in consultation with the Department for Education and Manchester City Council.

In addition to the lead school, a wide range of state schools and colleges across the region will benefit from this work. These include other key Greater Manchester teaching schools and their alliances (Ashton on Mersey School, Cheadle Hulme High School, The Fallibroome Academy and St Ambrose Barlow RC High School) as well as The University of Manchester’s Gateway network of 30 widening participation-targeted schools in Greater Manchester.

The project will be supported by a number of external organisations and societies, including the British Science Association, the STEMNET Ambassador Programme, The Ogden Trust and the Royal Geographical Society.  Work will be undertaken to identify other partners from a range of sectors to support the project and its activities.

The principal investigator for the project is Dr Tim O’Brien, Associate Dean for Social Responsibility in the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences. He said “We are delighted to win funding for this project, which will engage young people in local schools with our researchers across a wide range of disciplines in the sciences and humanities.”

Gail Wickstead, Head of Teaching School at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, said: “This is a unique opportunity for our school, and many others, to engage with innovative University research to excite and enthuse the next generation of learners.

“In one project, pupils will get the chance to spend time in the University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Scinces undertaking hands-on activities into the development of medicines alongside University researchers. In another, academic researchers from the University’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute will visit schools to engage young people with current research, ethical issues and debate surrounding refugees, asylum and global health.”

The Research Gateway will be coordinated by the University’s Widening Participation team. Julian Skyrme, Head of Social Responsibility and Widening Participation, said: “This important programme builds on our longstanding excellence in both widening participation and public engagement with research.

“It will allow us to bring contemporary research to life for young people and develop the skills of our own early-career researchers such as communication, creativity and team work.”


Notes for editors

Further information about the RCUK initiative is available at  

Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils who annually invest around £3 billion in research. They support excellent research, as judged by peer review, which has an impact on the growth, prosperity and wellbeing of the UK. See

Dr Tim O’Brien and Julian Skyrme are available for interview on request from the Press Office.

For further information contact:

Aeron Haworth
Media Relations
The University of Manchester
0161 275 8387