The foundation pillar commits to high-quality transdisciplinary research, a world-class educational experience  and a strong emphasis on academic success.

These foundation commitments link directly into the Academic Strategy (launched in 2020) which sets out our ambition to deliver transformative impact for benefit on a global scale, through the four societal themes of health, smart, sustainability and resilience. It also sets out our vision for an improved student experience that will prepare our students to be leaders, to innovate and drive change.

2020–21 in focus

Healthy Society

Our world-leading researchers continue to play a crucial role in tackling local, national and global health issues.

Professor Mireille Toledano, Director of the Mohn Centre for Children’s Health and Wellbeing, is leading a project that focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents in the UK.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the study focuses on 15–17-year-olds and explores the complex multifactorial pathways that lead to poor mental health, and those that promote resilience to mental health issues.

Imperial is working in partnership with Google Health, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust on a project that studies the use of artificial intelligence for breast cancer screenings in NHS hospitals. This partnership secured government funding of £140 million over four years to accelerate the evaluation of artificial intelligence technologies.

A series of reports from the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team informed the UK government’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown for England. The team’s reports modelled a range of scenarios and evaluated the impact of easing restrictions at each step of the roadmap. The team are embedded within Imperial’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis (MRC GIDA) and the Jameel Institute, both based in the School of Public Health.

Smart Society

Mixed-reality teaching in the pandemic with the Microsoft HoloLens.

We have reaped some of the benefits of the  data revolution in our research, but we are now realising how it can change our teaching. The COVID-19 pandemic and our rapid move to remote working have given us a taste of how we might be able to enrich the  educational experience.

The School of Medicine was awarded the Transformation Award at the Real IT Awards for its use of the Microsoft HoloLens to deliver mixed-reality teaching during the pandemic.  The HoloLens allows students to see and hear the same things as their clinician educators during a live patient interaction, with the surroundings supplemented by overlaid digital information, such as drug charts or radiographs.

Professor Amir Sam, Head of the School of Medicine, said: “We are incredibly proud to have been presented this award. It is a testament to the hard work of the dedicated staff involved that our innovation and creativity has been recognised in this way.”

Integrating such innovations with our traditional modes of education reminds us that we can change both who we teach and how we teach. It is incumbent on us to remain alert to opportunities for further innovation.

Sustainable Society

We remain focused on tackling the most pressing challenges of our time, including sustainability.

This year, we launched a new Centre for Climate Change Innovation together with the Royal Institution to drive new technologies, techniques, policies and businesses to deliver a net zero carbon and climate resilient future, while engaging the public’s support for immediate and future innovation. This is financially supported by HSBC.

Our new Global Development Hub was launched by Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations this year. It aims to maximise the impact of Imperial’s world-leading research, education and innovation to help the world plan for the challenges society will face over the next 50 years to secure a better, more sustainable future for all.

Our researchers have made major contributions to our understanding of climate change and its effects on the human population. A report by Imperial academics this year presented substantial evidence that climate change has a detrimental and multi-faceted impact on mental health, with significant costs to individuals, health systems and economies that are currently unaccounted for in policy and practice.

After the government committed to a target of 2050 for net zero carbon emissions, we established a Sustainability Advisory Group and launched our own Sustainability Strategy in December 2020. The Sustainability Strategy sets out our long-term goal to be a sustainable, net zero carbon institution by 2040.

We are using our influence with policy makers to further our aims. The Forum is our policy engagement programme where our researchers build relationships with policy makers and share the latest research to support evidence-based policy development. Some of our events this year have focused on sustainability initiatives, including a plan for fairly decarbonising how people travel and the role of technology in achieving net zero carbon. Others have considered the lasting impact of the pandemic, emphasising the value of international collaborative science and discussing how scientists can best support policy making in a crisis. We also held a ‘policy hackathon’ on achieving greater algorithmic transparency in  the public sector.

Resilient Society

Our resilient society theme looks at how change evolves, and how we can adapt to it. Part of this involves improving our use of technology and tightening our cybersecurity controls to prepare  for advancements in the digital world.

This includes educating the next generation of cybersecurity experts with our new MSc in Security and Resilience: Science and Technology. At our School of Public Health, we are investigating how we can use our research to enable people to live longer, healthier lives, and we are collaborating across the College to find ways to reduce society’s carbon footprint.

Imperial experts helped inform policy makers during the G7 Summit in June 2021. This included work on health and economic resilience, led by Professor Lord Darzi, Paul Hamlyn Chair of Surgery and Co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation, through the Reform for Resilience Commission. This Commission advises on tackling global coronavirus resurgences in South and East Asia, global vaccine distribution and pandemic preparedness as we work to improve  economic and health resilience. An Imperial team led by Professor Francisco Veloso, Dean  of the Business School, and Professor Deborah Ashby, Director of the School of Public Health, also provided evidence to the Commission. Professor Alison Holmes advised world  leaders on the threat of antimicrobial resistance as they made new commitments on global health security.

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Imperial in 2020–21: People