Imperial’s core strengths and our emphasis on multidisciplinarity and collaboration mean that we are ideally placed to address some of the greatest challenges the world will face in the next five years. Four challenges that will shape our multidisciplinary research are outlined here, together with topical examples of ‘what if?’ questions that drive us to pursue the most challenging and difficult research and motivate us to work together in new and different ways.

There will be research problems that address more than one of these global challenge themes, and there will be important multidisciplinary research areas that do not naturally fit into any of them. The global challenges will themselves evolve and change with time. Our focus on excellent foundations, people, partners and enablers is designed to ensure that we will always be well placed to address the big questions and challenges of the future.

Global challenges

Discovery and the natural world

Discovery and the natural world

Student and plantWe aim to understand better the structure and evolution of the universe, and especially the part of it that we inhabit. Our core strengths in science and engineering provide a foundation for this curiosity driven research and enable us to acquire knowledge and develop transformational technologies that can have profound societal impact.

What if...

...we could identify the unknown 95 per cent of the universe?

...we could quantify and mitigate the impact of environmental and climate change?

...we could deliver water, energy and minerals that are secure, sustainable and affordable?

...we could understand the physiological mechanisms which influence how humans make decisions about their needs and wants?

Engineering novel solutions

Engineering novel solutions

Engineering drawings on whiteboard We aim to drive innovation to create a more sustainable world for future generations. We will build on our core strengths in engineering and science to advance understanding and develop technologies that will achieve this.

What if...

...we could recover heat energy and store it for later use?

...we could manage our environment in real time using advanced sensors and data analytics?

...we could decentralise manufacturing to be located in our homes and neighbourhoods?

...we could prevent the corrosion of metals?

...we could develop a carbon negative built environment?

...we could create business models that lead to further investment in renewable energy?

Health and well-being

Health and well-being

Lung scan We aim to improve the health of all in society in the UK and worldwide. This requires both the creation and improvement of treatments and prevention strategies, and the delivery of high quality, low cost, sustainable healthcare. We will work to create fundamental new insights into the way our genes and our environments interact, and use this knowledge to deliver individualised healthcare for every stage of life.

What if...

...we could eliminate the threat of infection caused by antimicrobial resistance?

...we could predict and prevent illness right across the life course?

...we could measurably reduce the burden of chronic disease?

...we could deliver an affordable healthcare model adjustable to all global conditions?

Leading the data revolution

Leading the data revolution

Servers with wires We aim to harness the power of ever increasing amounts of data to transform how society thinks about and uses information. We will lead scholarly inquiry into the production, analysis, use and sharing of data and become the academic partner of choice for data science.

What if...

...we could measure everything?

...we could improve our understanding of natural laws through exploring new or large data sets?

...we could use data to make humans better decision makers?

...we could predict and avoid financial crises associated with overheating of the economy?