President's Address 2024: Strategy launch

President's Address 2024


The annual President's Address to the Imperial Community provides a personal insight into the President's vision for Imperial.


Watch Professor Hugh Brady's President's Address on Tuesday 5 March 2024.


Welcome and thank you for joining us, in person or online. 

We are using this year’s President’s address to launch our new Strategy for Imperial, which we have titled Science for Humanity. 

Since our founding in 1907, Imperial has sought to be not only a world-leading university, but a world-changing one.  

We have combined our tremendous strength in science, engineering, medicine and business (so-called STEMB) with scientific discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship, to create real-world impact. 

Every day our students, staff and partners come together to interrogate the forces that shape our world. We do it so that we can better understand and shape our future. We do it so we can use that understanding to tackle the biggest challenges facing humanity.  

Sometimes, and this is one of those times, this means interrogating the forces that shape the future of our own university. That is why, one year ago, we came together to ask ourselves a question: “How do we maximise our potential as a force for good in the world?” 

 Our Strategy addresses that question – it is an actionable plan that unlocks more of the power of science to serve humanity.  

It sets out how we will shape the future – for our students, our community, our planet and everyone who calls it home. 

The strategy reflects an engaging and inspiring consultation both within and outside Imperial.  

A huge Thank You to everyone who contributed to this process. 

I hope you will be as inspired as I am by what we have achieved so far and all we will achieve together. 


How we framed our Strategy conversation 

We framed the conversation around three key considerations: 

  • First, Imperial’s proud history, current positioning and future ambition 
  • Second, consideration of the context within which we operate and will operate – the fast-moving and ever-more-technological time we live in, and the UK’s position within that world 
  • Third, the steps we need to take to deliver on our ambition – how we build on our formidable institutional strengths and distinctiveness, the areas where we can make the biggest difference, and how we inspire others to join us, partner with us and invest in us. 

A few words first on our history, positioning and ambition 


Proud History, Current Positioning and Global Impact 

Imperial is a remarkable institution!  

I said this in my first address, just after taking the reins as President, and I’m even more convinced of it now.  

Imperial is different among its peer group of world-leading universities because of the combination of its STEMB focus; highly collegial, collaborative and interdisciplinary culture; appetite for innovation and enterprise; and location in London, the world’s greatest city.  

But, what I find even more compelling is the collective ambition of our Imperial community to make the world a better place – to harness new knowledge and technologies to make our world healthier, smarter, safer, more sustainable and more prosperous. 

As highlighted in our Strategy, Imperial was founded to ‘be useful’ and, my goodness, Imperial is doing just that!  

It’s wonderful to see our UK and international peers recognise Imperial’s quality - Gold in the UK’s Teaching Excellence Framework; 1st for research quality, environment and impact in the UK’s most recent Research Excellence Framework; and Top 10 in both the QS and Times Higher Global University Rankings in 2024, to name but a few accolades. 

I was delighted that, when it came to the question of the future ambition, the answer from of our Imperial community was crystal clear – we want to bolster our position among the world’s top universities; to serve as a catalyst for positive change within the UK; and to maximise our potential as a force for good in the world.  

This ambition has implications and energised our strategy consultation. Indeed, the ambition underscores the very need for a strategy! 

Why – because our international peer group enjoy significantly greater resources than Imperial. As, do so many institutions in the chasing pack – especially the very well-endowed US universities and fast moving Asian powerhouses.  

Our Strategy recognises this reality and is built on the premise that we will need be even smarter, more agile and play to our strengths and differentiators if we are to continue to compete successfully with the world’s best. 


The Rapidly Changing World We Live In 

When it comes to Strategy, context matters.  

I could spend the next 30 minutes commenting on the challenging policy environment within UK higher education – on funding, immigration, and our changed place in Europe but that would be a distraction! 

These are, of course, significant sectoral challenges and I can assure you that we will continue to work tirelessly on your behalf to resolve them - through our own efforts and through Russell Group and UUK.  

For this address, I’d prefer to focus on the place of science and technology in our world, and Imperial’s place in that world. 

Perhaps never in history has our world been undergoing such rapid change – so much of it driven by advances in science and technology! 

Much of this has been unequivocally change for good!  

We can now cure diseases that for decades were so intractable, we can communicate with our family and friends on a daily basis no matter where they are in the world, and we can send spacecraft to other planets, often loaded with Imperial-designed experiments, to explore our solar system and its origins. 

In other areas, so-called human progress has come at a cost – leaving us with existential threats such as water and food insecurity, pandemics, pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change. 

Here, science and technology will be key to the delivery of solutions 

And, over the past year, we have witnessed world-changing advances in AI where the potential benefits and threats are exciting and alarming in equal measure. 

Our strategy imagines our future in this unpredictable, uncertain and increasingly technological world, and how we can summon our considerable strengths as a force for good.  


Our Core Strategic Aims 

At its core, our Strategy has three core aims: Enabling talent, powering research and amplifying impact. 

Our strategy seeks to develop the people, high-end STEMB capabilities and leadership skills the world needs now and into the future - attracting, nurturing and championing the best local, national and global talent wherever they are, and empowering them with inspiration, resources and freedom in order to make a meaningful difference. 

Our strategy seeks to further strengthen Imperial’s research and innovation environment – to create an even more deeply connected knowledge community and, very specifically, a convergence science powerhouse that will meet the urgency of the moment and respond with intelligence, responsibility and agility to everything that comes next. 

Our strategy seeks to scale the impact of new discoveries, inventions and ideas, as well as serve as a trusted convenor and partner for knowledge and tech organisations across the globe.  

It looks beyond our London campuses to our wider network and wider responsibility, honouring our social and civic purpose, in London for the world. 

To ensure that our strategy will have a meaningful and enduring impact, we know that we must create opportunities for everyone in our community to fulfil their potential – always guided by the values and behaviours we cherish – Respect, Collaboration, Excellence, Innovation and Integrity. 

My thanks to the huge number of colleagues who have already embarked on three major programmes of work on the enablers of our Strategy: Great People, Great Environment and Great Support. 

My thanks also to the many colleagues engaged in the refresh of our brand and preparing for a major fundraising campaign, 

When we embarked on this journey, I was greatly encouraged by the welcome for the Strategy process. 

But I also heard a clear request from across our community that we should: 

  • First, work hard to improve our day-to-day support processes – to get the little things, the commonly usedv things, right 
  • Second, tell the Imperial story with more confidence – in a very noisy and competitive environment we shouldn’t presume that Imperial’s excellence will shine through 
  • And, third, explore every lever available to address the resourcing gap between Imperial and so many of its competitors 

I can assure you that those requests, very timely requests, have been heard and are being acted upon. 


Our Key Strategic Initiatives 

Our strategy highlights nine cross-cutting initiatives that build on Imperial’s track record, strengths and differentiators, and have the potential to propel Imperial to a whole new level in terms our outputs, impact and reputation. 

These initiatives are intended to complement the inspiring educational and research activity in our academic departments. 

Our academic departments are home to our foundational academic disciplines and to so much of our ground-breaking disciplinary and blue skies discovery research that has and must continue to underpin all that Imperial does. 

The 9 cross-cutting initiatives highlighted in the Strategy document and designed to build on their success and to provide them additional, complementary avenues of exploration, access to new resources and routes to impact. 

With regard to the 9 cross-cutting initiatives, our Strategy is very much a high level statement of ambition and intent.  

They are very much works in progress and I look forward to working with you over the coming months to flesh them out in more detail. 

In this Address, I will highlight just a few. 


Education and the Student Experience 

Three initiatives focus on Education and the Student Experience.  

Imperial Inspires will see a major uplift in our UK and international Scholarship offer so that the Imperial student experience is open to top talent wherever it resides. 

The Imperial Class of 2030 programme will see an unprecedented investment in our curriculum, our student support services, digital resources and physical infrastructure, including a major upgrade to the Sherfield Building as a Student Hub and rollout of the next phase of our White City Deep Tech Campus. 

I would like to single out our new Imperial Extended Learning Institute for special mention. 

It a timely and ambitious project designed to future-proof careers, businesses and knowledge organisations with the STEMB capabilities and leadership to succeed in a fast-moving tech-enabled world. 

This is a rapidly growing market - where cutting-edge STEM education meets high-end executive education.  

The Institute will provide high-end short courses targeted at senior managers, executives and future leaders. 

Individual learners will be able to harness our advanced short courses to unlock new career opportunities or stack them over time to achieve a formal qualification.  

For knowledge organisations, we will partner to co-create customised STEMB-rich short courses and leadership programmes to meet their business development needs.  

For both individuals and businesses, the Institute will build on our position at the forefront of STEMB to provide the capabilities to grasp new opportunities in rapidly advancing fields such as AI, cleantech, quantum, engineering biology and climate science. 

I should reassure colleagues that we fully appreciate that this initiative cannot be delivered by adding to the workload of staff. Considerable work is underway on the investments required and the incentives for staff and departments to participate. 


Convergence science at unprecedented scale 

Moving on to research and enterprise, I am very excited by the potential of our new Imperial Future Leaders Academy and venture fund - two very timely additions to Imperial’s rich innovation ecosystem. 

The Imperial Future Leaders Academy will initially focus on early career staff to foster a dynamic, supportive and stretching environment that spans disciplines, fosters teamwork and encourages personal and professional growth.  

Our new venture fund will provide our brilliant entrepreneurs access to capital and proof-of-concept funding to realise the full potential of their businesses.   

But let me focus on our plan to establish 4 new cross-cutting Schools of Convergence Science – a potentially game-changing move for Imperial.  

This will enable interdisciplinary science at unprecedented scale with deep integration of disciplines, convening of cross-sectoral partnerships and harnessing new models of research – all focused on big societal questions and challenges. 

Their working titles focus on four key areas of UK and global strategic interest that build on Imperial’s considerable strengths: 

  • Human and artificial intelligence
  • Health, medtech and robotics
  • Climate, energy and sustainability
  • Space, security and telecommunications

These Schools of Convergence Science should provide a more effective shop window and portal for external partners, supporters and stakeholders, including more effective routes to Imperial’s research, education and innovation based in academic departments.  

They will amplify Imperial’s convening power, advisory and thought leadership – boosting our capacity to serve as a trusted partner for local and national governments, industry, third sector organisations and civil society.  

They will provide a sandbox for brainstorming, co-creation and hosting large interdisciplinary research programmes. 

 The new Schools will provide our PhD students with more opportunities for interdisciplinary activity to complement the support they receive in their host departments.  

And they will act as a useful lens through which to horizon-scan the educational landscape for new opportunities for innovative masters programmes and STEMB-rich short courses. 

Importantly, Imperial has form in this area – for example, our very successful CRUK Convergence Science Centre and ground-breaking initiatives such as I-X. 

Very few institutions could achieve convergence science on this scale! I am certain Imperial can! 


Imperial WestTech Corridor 

Let me stick with the theme of innovation for a few minutes but this time at a national and international scale. 

The global economy is in a strange place – filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Across Europe, and in the UK in particular, productivity has stagnated for many years and the threat of prolonged recession looms large. 

As one of the world’s top STEMB institutions, we are uniquely placed to help deliver on the UK’s ambition to be a Science Superpower where science, technology and innovation are key drivers of productivity, economic growth and job creation.  

We can contribute through our graduates, our research, our enterprise activity and our partnerships. 

We can also contribute by convening a unique set of innovation partners and assets to create a vibrant new ecosystem of globally competitive scale – the Imperial WestTech Corridor.  

West London already has many of the ingredients for success:  exceptional research institutions and industries; a diverse and productive population; access to capital and entrepreneurial expertise; high-quality existing and planned infrastructure including major transport links; and a political environment that supports planned urban development and inclusive growth. 

The Corridor will seek to harness five major innovation assets where Imperial is a significant player: 

  • Albertopolis, home to Imperial’s South Kensington Campus and many of London’s leading arts, cultural and scientific institutions, museums and galleries 
  • The rapidly growing Paddington Life Sciences innovation cluster centred around Imperial’s St Mary’s Hospital Campus 
  • The White City Innovation District, host to Imperial’s White City Deep Tech Campus and Hammersmith Hospital Health Sciences Campus 
  • Old Oak Park Royal, designated as one of London’s largest development zones and the planned home to London’s largest rail and tube transport hub 
  • Imperial’s Silwood Park eco-campus, with its leading programmes and partnerships in environmental science, biodiversity and sustainability 

This defining opportunity will not be realised by Imperial alone. It requires both an ambitious convener and equally ambitious, creative and tenacious partners. 

 I am greatly encouraged by the welcome the proposal has received to-date, including from the Mayor of London, and look forward to working with our partners to bring the concept to fruition. 

Today we are gathered to launch our new strategy in the Albertopolis – a remarkable scientific and cultural precinct envisioned in the 19th century by Prince Albert and his collaborators.  

What a fitting venue within which to draw inspiration from our history and declare our ambition to create an innovation ecosystem of the scale and profile that befits our time. 


Bringing more of the world to Imperial, and more of Imperial to the word 

On internationalisation, I don’t have to convince this audience that so much of contemporary science is a global endeavour – highly collaborative, networked and focused on the grand challenges facing humanity and our planet. 

As a statement of our intent to broaden and deepen our international partnerships and impact, we are establishing the Imperial Global platform. 

Imperial Global will bring even more of our work to the world, more of the world to our work, amplifying our impact through the creation of a network of hubs in strategic global cities.  

This network will demonstrate our commitment to building long term collaborations with a diverse range of partners and stakeholders, fostering new high-impact partnerships with industry, government and knowledge organisations, and giving us the opportunity to develop deeper links with our alumni. 

Our first hubs will be in Singapore, Ghana, the USA and India – with Singapore and Ghana opening in 2024.  

They will share characteristics that draw on Imperial’s unique strengths but have different activity profiles that build on existing partnerships and local needs and opportunities. 

Imperial Global Singapore will be located in Singapore’s CREATE international research and innovation campus and kicks-off with a major new research programme on the cybersecurity of medical devices in collaboration with NTU. Further programmes are already in gestation with other Singaporean partners. 

Imperial Global Ghana will be a knowledge hub that builds on our strong existing bilateral programmes with the University of Ghana, AIMS and other African partners in enterprise education, vaccine research, affordable diagnostics for common infections, and sustainable cities. 

It will also support other programmes across West Africa to increase the number, quality and impact of our STEMB partnerships with African stakeholders. 


Sustainable Imperial: Sustainability at the heart of everything we do 

Last, but definitely not least, let’s turn to Sustainability, the greatest challenge of our time.  

Few, if any, issues unite our Imperial community with such passion, determination and urgency.  

And it permeates our entire Strategy! 

We are determined to set a global benchmark for university sustainability, nurturing graduates who understand and advocate for climate science, supporting our researchers to investigate and respond to planetary challenges, and leading by example in our activities and on our campuses. 

By 2025, Sustainable Imperial will be established as an Imperial-wide strategy to deliver evidence-based solutions, embrace new technologies, challenge conventional thinking and open new debate in our efforts to solve this global and growing crisis. 

The new Imperial Zero Index, along with our Socially Responsible Investment Policy, will further strengthen our ‘engagement for change’ approach to partnership with, or investment in, fossil fuel companies – only engaging if collaborative research is strongly aligned to decarbonisation and if our partner demonstrates a credible strategic commitment to achieving net zero by 2050. 

 We will make major investments to transform our own campuses and working practices to become a sustainable institution with the university’s Decarbonisation Plan providing a comprehensive roadmap to reach net zero for Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2040 at the latest, and to minimise our Scope 3 emissions in collaboration with our suppliers.   

Sustainable Imperial is a remarkable opportunity for the university to live its commitment to environmental sustainability and responsible climate governance within, and far beyond, our campus. 


All that we have achieved and all that we can imagine 

In closing, I would like to thank the thousands among our community in London, across the UK and across the globe, who have contributed to our Strategy. We have been inspired and humbled in equal measure by your ideas and support. 

Our Strategy is unashamedly ambitious in seeking to maximise Imperial’s potential as a force for good in the world. 

Our founding mission was ‘to be useful’; a wonderful understatement of all that our exceptional teaching, research and innovation have made and continue to make possible. 

But before we can usefully change the world, we must first seek to understand it.  

Our strategy engages with, and animates this foundational idea: that Imperial’s shared purpose is one of inquiry and action.  

A scientific mindset that encourages imagination, celebrates precision, demands patience, insists on humility, rewards accidents, steels our backs and makes us brave. 

In science, as in strategy, there is no easy prophecy and no shortcut to progress. An understanding, sharpened, deepened or totally new – is the first and only precondition. 

While much of our direction in this Strategy feels new, our destination remains unchanged: to become a global home for everyone who believes in the power of science to discover, to create, to explain and to transform. To understand more of the universe and to improve the lives of more people in it. 

Thank you for listening. 


Professor Hugh Brady

President, Imperial College London