As part of the new Strategy, we seek to take Imperial's interdisciplinary research activity and reputation to a whole new level by creating four cross-cutting Imperial Futures: Schools of Convergence Science.


The establishment of Imperial Futures was driven by extensive conversations across the Imperial community over the last year. These conversations involved thousands of students (current and prospective), staff, alumni, and partners. Analysing these conversations revealed that Imperial needs to strengthen its interdisciplinary capacity for impact, enhance visibility, attract talent, and raise funding. 

The ambition is to establish four Schools that align broadly with the four pillars of the academic Strategy: sustainability, resilience, artificial & human Intelligence, and health. The current proposal is to establish two entities (Sustainable and Artificial & Human Intelligence) for the 2024-25 academic year.

Imperial Futures will act as a Physical and Virtual 'Shop Window', amplify Imperial's convening power, train the next generation of research leaders, drive innovation focused on the future and raise funding. 

As part of this work, we will look at the alignment of our current Global Challenge Institutes and how they may evolve into new entities where appropriate. The goal is to build upon the successes of these ground-breaking initiatives, ensuring the continuation of key activities and programs.


Imperial Futures aims to:

  1. Showcase Imperial's expertise: Imperial Futures will provide a shop window for internal stakeholders and potential external partners to Imperial's expertise and resources in key strategic areas, including more effective signposting to Imperial's departments, research facilities and education offering.
  1. Amplify Imperial's convening power: Imperial Futures will boost Imperial's convening power and thought leadership in these strategic areas – serving as a trusted partner for local and national governments, industry, third-sector organisations and civic society.
  1. Enhance interdisciplinary research: Imperial Futures will provide a sandpit for brainstorming, co-creation, and hosting large interdisciplinary research programmes of scale. They will also actively support bid preparation and consortium building.
  1. Train the Next Generation of Research Leaders: Imperial Futures will meet the demand from PhD students for more opportunities for interdisciplinary activity to complement the support they receive in their host departments and create virtual (CDT-like) interdisciplinary PhD programmes.
  1. Focus on the Future: Imperial Futures will horizon-scan the research and education landscape for emergent trends and new opportunities. They will work with departments to identify and potentially co-create new and distinctive cross-college PGT programmes together with departments. 


Principles for entities  

Operating with assigned budgets, these entities will not function as cost centres and revenue generated will be directed to their respective Departments, mitigating competition within Departments and Faculties. Notably, the entities are not obligated to generate income to cover their budgets, emphasising a focus on value creation. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will be implemented to ensure the efficient use of resources, fostering accountability and strategic utilisation.

Academic staff will remain in Departments, with opportunities for part-time secondment on a fixed term to support the objectives of the Schools. This may include developing new collaborative research ideas and undertaking roles like program leads or directors within the Schools. Staff will be recruited through respective Departments, within overarching thematic searches, maintaining a collaborative and adaptable academic workforce. In addition to secondments, there will be opportunities for participation of the wider Imperial community in the Futures Schools, and for formal and informal connections to their activities, helping to drive the interdisciplinary research and innovation programmes.

The entities are designed for seamless integration with key functions within Imperial. Collaborative efforts with essential Imperial entities, including the Imperial College Podcast (IPC), Enterprise Lab, ECRI (working title), Forum, and Communications teams, will facilitate diverse activities, enhancing the entities' impact and outreach.

Lastly, Imperial Futures will focus on providing support for Departmental Undergraduate (UG) degree programs. They will actively assist Departments in developing UG offerings, fostering collaboration and synergy across the academic landscape, and ensuring a collective and comprehensive approach to education and research.

Governance and operational support

During the preliminary discussions within the Working Groups, it became evident that a proficient team with acknowledged sector leadership would be required to spearhead the development of vision and thematic areas. This team will include co-directors and thematic leads, ensuring a strong foundation for strategic planning.

To operationalise this vision, each entity will have founding Co-Directors reporting to the Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise) and supported by a team of associate directors and an external advisory board. They will report to the University Research and Enterprise Board (UREB).

Next steps

Two distinct Working Groups, chaired by the Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise), have been established for Imperial Futures: Sustainable and Imperial Futures: Artificial & Human Intelligence. These Groups will consult with a wide range of stakeholders from across the College to advise on the overarching principles for the entities. Initial meetings of the Working Groups have already taken place, conducting mapping exercises on each thematic area and considering ongoing/completed initiatives to inform the development of Imperial Futures.


Imperial Futures: Sustainable

  • Mary Ryan, Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise), Chair
  • Ramon Vilar Compte, Vice-Dean of Research for the Faculty of Natural Science
  • Jem Woods, Professor of Sustainable Development, CEP
  • Ralf Toumi, Co-Director, Grantham Institute for Climate Change
  • Peter Childs, Co-Director of the Energy Futures Lab (EFL)
  • Alyssa Gilbert, Director of Innovation, Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment
  • Robert Shorten, Head of the Dyson School of Design Engineering
  • Ana Mijic, Reader in Water Systems Integration, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Frank Kelly, Battcock Chair in Community Health and Policy, SPH
  • Mirabelle Muuls, Associate Professor of Economics
  • Tim Green, Academic Leader for Sustainability
  • Mike Tennant, Vice-Dean (Education), Principal Teaching Fellow, CEP
  • Emma Lawrance, Lead Policy Fellow for Mental Health
  • Tina van De Flierdt, Head of Department, Earth Science and Engineering
  • Alex Berry, Zero Pollution Initiative Manager
  • Guy Woodward, Deputy Head of Department, Life Sciences

Imperial Futures: Artificial & Human Intelligence

  • Mary Ryan, Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise), Chair
  • Julie McCann, Vice-Dean of Research for the Faculty of Engineering
  • Mark Kennedy, Visiting Professor, Business School
  • Eric Yeatman, Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Rossella Arcucci, Senior Lecturer in Data Science and Machine Learning
  • Aldo Faisal, Professor of AI & Neuroscience
  • Michael Huth, Head of the Department of Computing
  • Alan Spivey, Associate Provost (L&T), Professor of Synthetic Chemistry
  • Stefanos Zafeiriou, Professor in Machine Learning & Computer Vision
  • Brendan Delaney, Chair in Medical Informatics and Decision Making
  • Axel Gandy, Head of the Department of Mathematics & Chair in Statistics
  • Anthony Gordon, Chair Anaesthesia and Critical Care, Department of Surgery and Cancer
  • Nir Grossman, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Brain Sciences
  • Daniel Goodman, Senior Lecturer, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Giorgio Gilestro, Senior Lecturer, Life Sciences

Groups will include key stakeholders, including representatives from Education themes and will consult with College functions (PA, IRO, Advancement, etc.) and suitable fora (e.g. FRCs).

Both Working Groups are supported by the Executive Officer to the Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise).

Terms of Reference

  • Engage with a diverse range of stakeholders to gather innovative ideas on how Imperial Futures can effectively convene influence, project thought leadership, and establish a distinctive entry point for engagement with the College, with a specific focus on research and innovation.
  • Develop opportunities to drive interdisciplinary research within existing structures, providing a robust framework for convening thought leadership in interdisciplinary research and innovation.
  • Identify and propose potential Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) KPIs and metrics for success for entities, that can be harmonised across all initiatives to measure success consistently.
  • Finalise the structure of the initiatives, ensuring a cohesive and effective framework for their development and implementation.
  • Support to identify founding director(s) for each initiative, ensuring strong and visionary leadership aligned with the goals of Imperial Futures.
  • Review and propose incorporation of aligned activities where appropriate.
  • To consider recommendations from stakeholders and shape operating principles to ensure entities add value and are not in direct competition with Departments and Faculties.